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Smith: The Cotati tree lady's good heart

  • Prue Draper, left, of the Cotati Historical Society and Louise Santero, a longtime Cotati resident, stand next to an extremely rare albino redwood tree near the railroad track at East Cotati Ave on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Cotati, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

There's a sweet side-story to the tale of the ultra rare redwood in Cotati that may be cut down to make way for SMART train tracks.

Lori Carter's story noted that retired newspaperwoman Prue Draper, co-founder of the Cotati Historical Society, has researched the variegated albino redwood for months.

A restlessly curious traveler, Draper was satisfied when she left to explore New Zealand weeks ago that the tree would be preserved.

Cotati's Chimeric Coast Redwood Tree

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But during that trip, an email notified her that SMART now finds it necessary to remove the tree because a second track is going in there, at East Cotati Avenue, and the tree would be dangerously close to it.

That bit of news was a low point of Prue's Pacific journey. And this was a high one:

Draper stopped over in Honolulu to take care of some unfinished business. A decade ago, amid a Pacific cruise with her late husband, Lloyd, she'd become miserably ill.

She was shocked to learn in a Hawaiian hospital that she was suffering heart failure.

"I wasn't a very nice patient," Draper said. She grudgingly submitted to procedures that Dr. Wesley Kai, a cardiologist, recommended.

Draper said these past 10 years have been pretty darned good, and she owes them to that doc. So en route to New Zealand she sojourned in Honolulu long enough to thank him and give him a bottle of Sonoma County wine.

It did both their hearts good. Now she's back to bird-dogging that peculiar tree alongside the SMART rails.


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