By Kasia Broussalian
Three trees — an American elm, a white oak and a red oak — to honor three men were planted on the Chautauqua Green under a bright sun Thursday afternoon by the friends and families of Jonathan “Jonny” Copp, Micah Dash and Wade Johnson.
The Boulder men were killed in an avalanche during a climbing expedition to Mount Edgar, a remote peak in western China, one year ago Thursday.
“Today is not a memorial,” Copp’s sister, Aimee Copp, said to the crowd of 50 or so who gathered for the event as children played soccer in the background. “Today is a celebration. And I don’t think my brother would have wanted it any other way.”
Johnson’s mother, Susan Johnson, told the crowd her son would have loved being out at Chautauqua with friends on just such a day.
“My advice to all of you is: We have this day. Grab it and love it,” she said.
Phyllis Copp, Jonny’s mother, said that as the anniversary of their deaths approached everyone wanted to do something special to remember all three men.
“The American Alpine Club offered their whole facility for a fundraiser,” Aimee Copp said. “Everyone was so generous.”
Ultimately, though, they decided to plant a tree for each of them.
“Trees are a living memorial,” Phyllis Copp said, “and Jonathan, Micah and Wade all loved nature so much.”
The mood Thursday was that of a warm gathering of friends. Scott Park, who was friends with Dash and Copp, was there with his daughters. He said it was a good opportunity to get outside and visit with friends, some of whom he hadn’t seen in a while. He said the trees were a nice tribute, too.
“The trees will be here for a very, very long time,” Park said. “And it’s a beautiful place to do it.”
In the past year, Copp’s family started the Jonny Copp Foundation, which Phyllis Copp said will eventually give grants for climbing, photography, writing, the environment — everything her son cared about.
“We want to support all the things he loved,” Phyllis said. “And Micah and Wade loved the same things.”
Aimee Copp said the foundation has been keeping the family busy.
“All the projects have been amazing and healing at the same time,” she said.
Phyllis Copp said that along with the pain of the loss of her son, there’s been beauty in all of the love and support still pouring in from friends.
“It seems like every day or every week, there’s a letter or something” from someone Jonny inspired, she said. “I want to turn this tragedy into something positive, something magic.”