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  • Arboretum Mourns Loss of Volunteer Extraordinaire Skip Vonckx

Skip working with a fellow Garden Steward on Azalea Way in 2016. (Photo courtesy Paige Miller)

The Arboretum family is mourning the loss of one of its most dedicated volunteers, Paul “Skip” Vonckx, who passed away at age 83 in late December due to a heart-related illness.

Skip’s volunteer service began in 2003 and spanned nearly two decades. Over those years, he was ever-present, working at our events, on the Arboretum grounds, and behind the scenes on the Foundation board of directors.

“Skip brought a great savvy and wisdom to his work at the Arboretum,” says Foundation executive director Jane Stonecipher, “honed over many years of leadership at the Bank of Boston. He also brought a graceful ease, demonstrating genuine interest in the people around him, as well as a great sense of humor and fun.”

Skip with his wife, Zanny, at the our “Flower Power” themed gala in 2020. 

Former Arboretum Foundation director Paige Miller shared with us some of her memories of Skip from her time in charge.

“He took on whatever role we asked him to do,” says Paige. “He was our board treasurer multiple times. He volunteered at our plant and holiday sales. He loved working on our display gardens at the Flower & Garden Show, usually volunteering to be [designer] Bob Lilly’s assistant on the day he installed the ground covers. He was also one of our first garden stewards.”

“He particularly loved the Japanese Garden and took on the sensitive task of chairing the Japanese Garden Committee when the Arboretum Foundation signed the agreement with Seattle Parks and Recreation to assume some of the responsibilities of operating that Garden. As usual, he was deft and strategic.”

“He was generous, upbeat, supportive, and fun. He was also kind and wise.”

Former board member and display garden designer Roger Williams says “I’m thinking of the many hours Skip and I spent together in various tasks around the Arboretum. Most fondly are the hours we spent in some tiny corner of a Garden Show working on the display assembly, crafting the clumps, sawdust, fences, and skirts. He was always filled with spirit, humor and purpose.”

For his outstanding service, Skip was awarded our Volunteer Legacy Award at the 2015 Annual Meeting. He is survived by his wife, Zanny, also a Foundation volunteer, his daughters Hilary and Elizabeth, and their families.

Skip with family and friends at our 2015 Annual Meeting, having just received the Volunteer Legacy Award.

Skip working on the 2019 Arboretum Display Garden with Bob Lilly.

Volunteering at the 2017 Gifts & Greens Galore Holiday Sale.

With UWBG’s Fred Hoyt in 2019 at the 80th birthday celebration for John Wott.