Friends, family memorialize avalanche victim | SierraSun.com

Friends, family memorialize avalanche victim

Renee Shadforth

An intimate group of approximately 25 friends and family members gathered Sunday evening to plant a tree in memory of Kathy Polucha-Kessler, who died earlier this year in an avalanche in British Columbia.

“I’m glad you all could make it today. Kathy’s glad you could make it,” said Scott Kessler, who had been married to Polucha-Kessler for two years before her tragic ski accident on Jan. 29.

“We kept this small,” Scott said before planting the tree, “but I hope that everyone who knew her can come a visit the tree.”

The memorial was a blue spruce, planted above the Truckee River Regional Park Amphitheater, where Scott said his wife “loved going to the music in the park on Wednesdays.”

Before planting the tree, Scott read the plaque (supported by a piece of wood that used to be a scratching post for Polucha-Kessler’s cat) and poured some of her ashes into the ground.

The gathering was small, considering the hundreds of friends Polucha-Kessler had made during her time in Truckee. While Scott and some friends wrestled the tree into the ground, the attendees talked about how they’ve been getting along since Polucha-Kessler’s death.

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Once the tree was in the ground, they formed a circle around the tree and said their silent words to Polucha-Kessler.

There were some tears, but the group was mostly smiles as they told their favorite stories about their friend. One woman said she is planning a backpacking trip in honor of what would have been Polucha-Kessler’s 40th birthday at the end of this month.

Linda Lindsay helped gather donations for the memorial. Her husband, Keith, was on the trip with Polucha-Kessler.

“He was one of the lucky ones, whose life wasn’t taken,” she said.

Lindsay added that she didn’t want to make the tree planting “some big, huge event.”

Karen Moyer, who had been friends with Polucha-Kessler for 10 years before the accident, also helped plan the memorial. She wanted to give Polucha-Kessler’s family something more permanent than flowers.

“We wanted to keep her memory a little more tangible,” she said. “It’s alive and she’s alive, growing inside of us through her spirit and her sense of adventure.”

The plaque reads:

“In loving memory of Kathy Polucha-Kessler, 1963-2003

We followed you easy for a while/

One adventure at a time/

Now we can only be with you in our memories/

But if adventures are a bit like stars/

You have left us with a sky full.”