Bench recalls Luther Burbank and supports a cause

  • A historic bench was being auctioned off to raise money at the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, California on Sunday, December 4, 2011. The bench was made from the Cedar of Lebanon tree that grew over Luther Burbank's grave, and was then purchased and used by Charles M. Schultz. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

A bench with ties to two of Santa Rosa's most beloved former residents fetched $1,700 at an auction to benefit the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens Sunday.

The commemorative garden bench, once owned by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, was one of 21 made from the wood of the Cedar of Lebanon tree beloved by famed horticulturist Luther Burbank.

Jean Schulz donated the perfectly preserved bench, which she and her late husband purchased in 1993, to help the non-profit that operates the museum raise some much needed operating capital, said Barbara Abbott, spokeswoman for the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens.

"We're really thrilled," Abbott said of the outcome.

The benches fetched $1,125 in 1993, and Abbott said she expected the bidding to exceed $1,500.

A couple from Cotati, Leanna Kielian and John Barry, won the auction with a last-minute bid Sunday afternoon, Abbott said.

Bidding started on-line at $1,000 last week, and several people upped the ante after seeing the walnut colored bench in person during the group's Holiday Open House, she said.

The bench was made from the wood of the 105-foot cedar tree after it succumbed to a root fungus in 1989. Burbank, who moved to Santa Rosa in 1875, was buried under the tree when he died in 1926.

For years the landmark tree Burbank planted in 1893 served as Santa Rosa's Christmas tree, complete with lights, mayoral speeches and caroling children.

"It was horrible when we learned we had to take it down," said Dee Blackman, a long-time museum volunteer who organized the three-year effort to have the wood milled, the benches designed and built, and their auction.

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