Blaine Brende and his dog Richard. Credit: Polina Gupaliuk

I don’t know what Blaine Brende believed about the afterlife, but I do know that he believed that there’s something similar to Heaven in this life, as evidenced by the divine grace of trees, a grace he spent a lifetime learning to appreciate and enhance.

Should there be an afterlife, Blaine is probably comparing the heavenly form of trees there to the heavenly form of trees here. For almost four decades Blaine’s work made the urban forest of the East Bay a safer and more beautiful place.

Blaine was born in Hutchinson Minnesota. While serving in the U.S. military in Thailand, he met, fell in love with, and married Ratree Boonbanlu. They had one son, James Brende. James died in 2019. Though Blaine and Ratree divorced, she remained a part of Blaine’s extended family, as did Ratree’s daughter, Melynda Feliciano, who was also important in Blaine’s life.

Blaine Brende’s life had many facets. After he settled in California he became a peace activist, earned a master’s degree in psychology, was an avid reader, and an amateur historian. Blaine Brende was deeply committed to protecting the environment, to promoting social justice, and, in all things, to living a life of integrity. I was his partner for nearly 40 years in our arborist business, Brende and Lamb.

Blaine was loved by his clients, his company, his family, his dogs, and, in their own way, by the trees he so lovingly tended. Blaine collected and played wooden Native American flutes. He loved kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough. He was a poet and essayist and a longtime writing group participant. If you happened to be wandering in the Berkeley Marina in the last few years you might have seen Blaine practicing Tai Chi with his beloved wife, Vera.

Blaine Brende and his wife, Vera. Credit: Polina Gupaliuk

Once, asked as a writing prompt how he want to be remembered, Blaine Brende wrote the following: “One thing that was said about Alpha [Blaine’s aunt] when she passed was that the world was a better place because she had been here and lived her life the way she had. I suppose I’d like to be remembered the same way. Of course for me it might be different things. Perhaps it might be honestly said that the east bay is a more beautiful place because BL [Brende and Lamb] was here pruning the trees at a high standard. My goal in writing is to make the world a better place, but of course people would actually have to read it for that to be true … but who knows, maybe that will yet happen. And I’d like to be remembered as someone who lived a life of integrity and who tried his best to do the right thing as he saw it.”

Blaine Brende. Credit: Joe Lamb

Blaine is survived by his wife, Vera, his stepdaughter, Polina Gupaliuk, her husband Misha, their son Marcel, his stepdaughter Melynda Feliciano, his brother Joel Brende, his sister-in-law Julie Gryting Brende, and by his nieces and nephews, Eric Brende, Kareen (Brende) King, Terri (Brende) Martin, Mark Brende, Alicia (Brende) Mock, Lisa Brende Martin, Heidi Brende Leathwood, and Peter Brende. He is preceded in death by his brother Rolf Brende and his son Jimmy Brende.