Jeff DeMark, a longtime friend of Zoanne, wrote this poem in tribute to her.
Gum Tree Girls
For Zoe Nordstrom
Walking through Glen Park Canyon
Cold December afternoon
Eucalyptus trees towering
Swaying and dancing
Tended paths meander
And a fairy altar in the rocks:
“An old gnome home”
Couples and families strolling
in this refuge of beauty and calm
jagged rock formations up above
as if we walked in a Utah canyon
in the middle of San Francisco
This beautiful refuge
50 years ago
for a four lane freeway
Three neighborhood women
stood up to power,
mocked as dreamers, deluded,
doomed to fail
laughed at as “the Gum Tree Girls”
because they loved those
blue gum Eucalyptus trees
But power bent to the dreamers
a freeway lost to trees, rocks
50 years later no SUVs, Harleys or Hondas
disturb swaying and dancing
blue gum Eucalyptus trees,
couples hold hands on paths
and kids run wild as parents trail
time passes slowly
in Glen Park Canyon.
One Gum Tree Girl,
lead rabble rouser,
“shit stirrer supreme”
Said 50 years later:
“My motto is:
‘Ya gotta try.
If you don’t try
Ya got no complaints.”
Amen Zoe Nordstrom.
Jeff DeMark, December 2016
Jeff also wrote about his relationship with Zoanne:
I moved to San Francisco in 1986 when I was 35 years old, from Madison, WI. I’d been in SF a number of times, had a brother living in Arcata and had always wanted to live in SF since I first wandered through the magical streets in1972 when I was 20.
I was desperate for a place to live and, through a connection, was led to Zoe. That’s when my life and luck turned for the better.
I lived at her house for three years and she changed my life with her way of dealing with the world, her attitude about money, philanthropy, her optimism, her fighting spirit, her down-home practicality. I left in 1990 but she would let me and my family stay there almost any time and we went to many ball games together. She said I had “Former renter’s squatter’s rights for life.”
Living in her house with $300 rent gave me so much freedom to explore SF.
My good friend ran Slim’s nightclub and worked for Bill Graham so I could go to any show I wanted to see. After working for the Giants, I could go to any Giants game. I got press passes to the Oakland A’s…Now I look at it all as a golden time, although it was a time of great struggle internally. And I’m a writer, so I was writing up some of these experiences and turning the raw material into my version of art.
I worked all kinds of temp jobs, sold ads for the Giants, worked at the US Golf Open, a little hotel in North Beach….filing, typing, copying, painting houses…spinning my wheels and trying to figure things out.
Zoe was a low-key avatar to me, showing me how to live, look at money as a means to an end, something that’s in flow rather than to be afraid of, approaching life as an adventure and how to be fearless. How to believe in myself above all.
These were all lessons that were learned over time. One time she looked at me and said, “You’re not really worried about money, are you?”
“Yes, I am.
“Because I don’t have any.”
“But you’ll always be ok. Money will come to you. I’ll lend you whatever you want.”
I never did borrow money but the way she approached life, how she staked each of her sons to a house or land, how she supported so many organizations …it just amazed me you could live like that and thrive. Her humor, her fierceness and compassion were defining characteristics.
I moved to Arcata to go to grad school in English and see if I could become the artist I dreamed/hoped I could be. Ended up writing 5 storytelling monologues and traveling widely with them.
One was called “Went to lunch, never returned.” Zoe was represented in that show as the wise person trying to wake me up from my psychic morass. She came to the show when I did it at the Marsh and whooped it up with her friends.
She truly was a beacon of light and love in my life and I never missed a chance to visit with her, go to Higher Grounds, talk in her kitchen., etc.
Without meeting Zoe, I probably would’ve returned to Madison, never met my wife, never had kids. I credit Zoe with so much of the good that’s happened since I moved west. She’s the ultimate example of “Pay it forward.”