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Elizabeth and husband Allen feted at the 2017 Opening Night Party.

The Arboretum Foundation would like to acknowledge the passing of one of its most beloved and dedicated volunteers, Elizabeth Moses. She died in late December, 2022, at the age of 91.

Elizabeth’s record of service at the Arboretum is remarkable. She worked as a volunteer here—often in tandem with her husband, Allen—for many decades. She loved the Seattle Japanese Garden and the larger Arboretum equally. She served as a garden guide at both venues and became legendary for her knowledge of the collection plants. She staffed plant sales, served on committees, led countless tours for kids and adults, alike, and trained many other garden guides.

“Elizabeth was the longest-serving member of the Arboretum Foundation ever that I am aware of,” says Japanese Garden guide and former Foundation board president Steve Garber. “She became a volunteer in, I think, the mid 1950s, when her first child was a year old. She and Allen had just returned to Seattle from living in Japan during the post-war occupation. So, almost 70 years!”

In the early 1960s, Elizabeth founded Arboretum Foundation Unit 5 (naming it for her friend Margaret Mulligan, wife of influential Arboretum director Brian Mulligan), a still-active garden club and volunteer group that has provided tremendous support to the Arboretum over the years. She was also a member of Unit 86, the Japanese Garden guides, until her passing.

Elizabeth (far right) with some of her fellow Japanese Garden guides in 2010. (Photo by Paige Miller)

Current Foundation board member and Japanese Garden guide Jeanne Peterson shared this remembrance: “I met Elizabeth when I joined Unit 86 in 2010. She was a dedicated member of the group and participated in numerous activities. Elizabeth was fun to work with. I remember her helping with origami instruction on Children’s Day. She taught us how to make and wear adult-sized ‘samurai helmets’ from a newspaper! She was gracious and kind, welcoming me to the group.”

“She was an active member of the Japanese Garden Society of Seattle, another group of Japanese Garden supporters, during the 1990s, when most of the cultural programs like Moon Viewing, Children’s Day, Tanabata, and others were initiated,” says Steve. “She recruited me into Unit 86 in about 1997. Elizabeth was a wonderful friend whose contributions to the Arboretum and the Japanese Garden were huge. You don’t get many Elizabeths in a lifetime.”

Elizabeth served as board president of the Arboretum Foundation from 1987 to 1989, and a lot was accomplished during her tenure. In her 1988 President’s Report published in the Arboretum Bulletin, Elizabeth summarized the Foundation’s accomplishments for that year, which included a donation of $30,000 to fund the restoration and redesign of the Witt Winter Garden and Sorbus Collection. Also during this time, the Foundation hosted its first Preview Gala at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show (now our main annual fundraiser, the Opening Night Party) and established the “Saplings” program, which has since evolved into the UW Botanic Gardens School Field Trips program.

Elizabeth in 2014 with some of her fellow Unit 5 members, plus former Foundation director Paige Miller, far left. (Photo by Jeannine Bannick)

Some of Elizabeth’s experiences working with director Brian Mulligan and curator Joe Witt on developing the garden guide program were recorded by UW Botanic Gardens in 2010 as part of its oral history project for the Arboretum and Center for Urban Horticulture.

During the 2007–08 fundraising campaign for the Japanese Garden Entry Gatehouse, Elizabeth was instrumental in securing $125,000 from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to support the project. As Garden guide Susan Stone relates the story, “Elizabeth and I were volunteering for a Japanese Garden event and were sitting at the main entrance. Paul Allen walked out, and I recognized him from the newspapers. I said, ‘That’s Paul Allen!’ Then Elizabeth jumped up and ran after him and asked for a donation for the Gatehouse.”

Shortly after, Paul called the Arboretum Foundation office and arranged the donation. (It probably helped that Elizabeth had a connection to Paul through her brother, who was principal at Lakeside School when Paul was a student there.)

Elizabeth and Allen with former Foundation board president Jim Reid in the Witt Winter Garden, 2017.

At the 2017 Opening Night Party, Elizabeth and Allen Moses were celebrated as our honorary event co-chairs and as “Arboretum treasures.” The program remarks stated, “No place in Seattle has more dedicated volunteers than the Arboretum—and no volunteer has been more dedicated than Elizabeth Moses.”

Says current Arboretum Foundation director Jane Stonecipher, “Before the Foundation had staff members, it was a volunteer-led organization. Leaders like Elizabeth were instrumental in laying the groundwork for all that we accomplish today. She could be counted on for wisdom and encouragement, and for finding joy in both trees and the people who treasure them.”

Elizabeth is survived by three of her children, Mim, Sarah, and Bruce, 11 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren, and her sister-in-law and fellow Arboretum volunteer, Susan Ayrault. Read her obituary in The Seattle Times.


“Elizabeth was always the voice of balance and reason, no matter what she was doing for, or with, the Arboretum. She just moved along, always with kindness, always firm. She was one of the best listeners I’ve ever encountered (the key, I think, to success in any democracy). She’d present her views simply, directly and always with impeccable dignity and rhetoric.”

~ Steve Lorton, former Foundation board member

“During the formation of the Master Plan, she was tireless as an advocate and fundraiser for the Arboretum and for comprehensive integration of the Japanese Garden at a time when it could have been overlooked. She and Allen were gracious volunteers and generous supporters.”

~ Julie Coryell, Japanese Garden guide

“She was wonderful woman—one in a million. I remember being invited 60-plus years ago by Elizabeth and her sister-in-law, Susan Ayrault, to introduce a few friends to the Arboretum and start a new volunteer Unit. That was the beginning of what has been a lifetime of learning about and loving plants. We all eventually became Japanese Garden guides, too.”

~ Jeannine Bannick, Arboretum Foundation Unit 5

To add a short remembrance of Elizabeth, contact Niall Dunne at ndunne@arboretumfoundation.org.