Sisters Anne (Babe) Bowman and Jean Affleck were fixtures of Fisher Street for decades, living most of their long lives in two homes on that street and building deep ties with their neighbours.
When they died within weeks of each other in 2020 it only made sense to honour the sisters with a commemorative tree in Fisher Park. “They were just real parts of the neighbourhood. Like a tree, they were in the ground there,” says niece Jill Bowman.
That’s why approximately 15 families–neighbours (and former neighbours)–got together to purchase a tree as part of Winnipeg’s Commemorative Tree Program. In September, some 35 neighbours first gathered for refreshments on Lorna Weir’s deck, then around the newly planted tree to share stories about Babe and Jean.
Jean and Babe were fiercely independent, educated, world travellers, funny and gentle. “They were characters in their own right,” says Lorna, who organized the commemorative tree and knew them for 40 years.
The family home where Babe lived much of her life was at 718 Fisher St (which remains in the family). When Jean married later in life she moved with her husband Ken a few doors down to 674 Fisher.
As the sisters aged, they were adamant to stay in their homes almost until the end, and their neighbours helped out when needed.
The Commemorative Tree Program is offered through the City of Winnipeg. For $1000 (with approximately three-quarters of that eligible for a charitable tax receipt) the City will plant, care for, and guarantee the tree for two years.
Just 20 metres away from the Bowman tree, Till Freihammer arranged to have a commemorative oak tree planted in memory of his mother Helga Freihammer. Although her roots were not in Riverview, planting a tree in Fisher Park has deep meaning for him too.
His mother, who passed away in November 2019, is buried in a woodland cemetery in Germany, just beside a maple tree.
“She has a tree there and now she has a tree here. It’s fitting,” says Till, who moved to Riverview in 2006. “Plus, it plants a tree which is good for the neighbourhood, for the green canopy.”
It’s also fitting that the tree is situated in the southeast corner, facing the Montessori pre-school, as Helga Freihammer loved her work in a pre-school and kindergarten in Germany.
Till says he walks past the tree a few times a week now: “I just observe this tree as I pass by it. Otherwise, it’s everyone’s tree!”
You can find out more about the commemorative tree program (including the application) here: https://winnipeg.ca/publicworks/parksOpenSpace/UrbanForestry/Commemorative_Tree.stm