On anniversary of Steve Jobs' death, trees honor his life | News | Palo Alto Online |


On anniversary of Steve Jobs' death, trees honor his life

Old Palo Alto resident Catherine Debs decorates maples with sayings, photos, milestones

It's been five years since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 5, 2011. This week Old Palo Alto resident Catherine Debs, as she has in years past, put the finishing touches on a pair of trees at the intersection of Bryant Street and Lowell Avenue, decorated with ornaments celebrating milestones in the creative genius' life.

From oft-repeated quotes ("Stay hungry. Stay foolish") -- to product launch dates (2003, iTunes) -- to photographs (Jobs with his wife and children), the decorations honor the legacy of the man whose vision forever changed the face of not just the personal-computing computing industry but the way people relate to technology.

Debs, the former assistant chief of protocol for San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, said she was motivated to pay tribute to her former Old Palo Alto neighbor right after he died.

"I remember listening to the radio as I drove home near his house," Debs recalled. "I heard the news, and I immediately didn't believe it. I drove by the (Apple) store on University, and nothing was going on. They didn't know anything.

"When the news got out, the University Avenue store was decorated -- just like when Princess Diana died -- with flowers, notes. And I said, next year at this time, since he was our neighbor, we would honor him," Debs said.

"Steve Jobs was our (Thomas) Edison. He was a tour de force," she said of his nonstop inventiveness.

Debs' adornments on the maples follow prior bursts of creativity. She began festooning the trees, coincidentally, shortly after Jobs died; her first project was for Halloween 2011.

Since then she's hung giant firecrackers and fiery dragons for Chinese New Year, birdcages and bright pink flowers for the beginning of spring, and other seasonal objects.

Although bicyclists along Bryant Street whizzed by the Apple trees on Friday, one woman walking her German shepherd stopped to look. Stepping under the leafy canopy, she reached up to read the ornaments and reflect.

This is part of what Debs intended when she and a friend, lightscape designer Bernie Wooster, first conceived of decorating the trees: a way to bring neighbors together by giving them something to talk about.

This month, some of that food for thought comes in the form of Jobs' own words. In addition to the ornaments, a banner near the trunk of one tree observes: "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

A second banner poses a provocative question that Jobs, in a commencement speech to Stanford University graduates in 2005, said he asked himself every morning: "If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you're about to do today?"

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8 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 7, 2016 at 9:41 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Steve Jobs was our home grown creative genius! I'm glad that his beautiful design sense was awakened buy that first Topography class at Reed College! His creativity helped to make the beautiful Apple products we see today! Thanks Catherine for honoring him with these lovely trees!

9 people like this
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2016 at 12:38 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

This is a very nice way to commemorate Steve Jobs contribution to our society, the bay area, Palo Alto and mighty USA.


28 people like this
Posted by Yesh Ballon
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 10, 2016 at 11:08 am

As a frequent rider down our Bryant Street Bike Boulevard I've gotten so much joy out of seeing the different displays on these trees as I pass between them, but never knew who was responsible for them. Thank you PAOnline for featuring this and thank you Catherine Debs for the joy that you bring others.

14 people like this
Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 10, 2016 at 11:32 am

vmshadle is a registered user.

I agree with Yesh Ballon. As a Bryant Boulvevard bicycle commuter, I have long wondered who is responsible for all the fun and ever-changing displays. Now I can offer public thanks to Catherine Debs for adding to our quality of life.

10 people like this
Posted by Tree lover
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 10, 2016 at 12:16 pm

I have often wondered who decorated those trees. Its a great thing to do and a real 'feature' of the area. Thank you for doing this!

9 people like this
Posted by Miranda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2016 at 12:38 pm

Insanely great.

13 people like this
Posted by A Big Thanx
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2016 at 1:50 pm

A Big Thanx is a registered user.

As a bike rider, I have wondered for YEARS who was putting up these delightful displays for every occasion and holiday!

As a neighbor, my grandchildren have been delighted with these displays--they think it's Christmas every day!

Thank you so very much! My grandchildren send you warm hugs!

13 people like this
Posted by Riding Roy
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2016 at 3:20 pm

"....how many people have been hit by cars cause they are so busy staring at their iPhones?"

Probably fewer than the bicyclists and pedestrians who were hit by cars driven by people who were so busy staring at their iPhones.

I am not sure why you chose this thread to vent on but I felt compelled to defend those who almost always suffer the consequences regardless of fault.

6 people like this
Posted by A neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 10, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Oh, how wonderful. I have been enjoying the decorated trees for a long time while biking on Bryant. The decorations are so beautiful, sometimes with the wind it looks mesmerizing. I look forward to seeing them every time.

2 people like this
Posted by Susan Cole
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:03 pm

Add my name to the list of people who have been wondering who adorned the trees at Bryant and Lowell with seasonal decorations. Thanks to Catherine Debs for adding this special touch to life in Palo Alto.

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