A black headstone marks a garden created in memory of Karen Wrentzel, whose family and friends gathered there in Hebron on Tuesday to remember her. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

HEBRON — Gathered in a garden built in honor of Karen Wrentzel late Tuesday afternoon, family and friends said it’s a permanent source of light and a reminder of her life.

A bench surrounded by lilac bushes in Hebron is part of a garden created in memory of Karen Wrentzel. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

The plot is marked by a black headstone and a post with a black cat. There are rows of lilacs, bunches of Shasta daisies, creeping moss, apple trees and blueberry bushes.

Sarah Ziehm said she first met Wrentzel on the first day of seventh grade at Auburn Middle School.

“We were really shy,” she said. “She asked to borrow a pencil, and she thought I was going to get mad at her. We became the best friends ever.”

Ziehm said Wrentzel accomplished many dreams in her short life: becoming a Maine Guide, moving to Montana to ski, work on farms and as a chef, and hiking in Yellowstone National Park.

But she had many more.

According to a handwritten list, Wrentzel wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, write a book and survive “without working for a corporation.”

Karen Wrentzel

Described by her family as an idealist, Wrentzel also was a pragmatist. She fully supported hunters’ rights and thought hunting was a viable way to live off the land.

Her uncle, Jon Spofford, said a simple act could have saved Wrentzel’s life.

If Robert Trundy of Hebron had asked permission to hunt on Wrentzel’s land on that fateful day in October 2017, she might not have been shot and killed.

“It’s not the law, but it’s definitely a courtesy to notify and inform and ask permission from the landowners that you intend to be hunting on their land,” Spofford said.

The judge who sentenced Trundy earlier Tuesday for manslaughter said even if Wrentzel had been wearing orange garb it wouldn’t have been visible through the woods where she was living.

According to Ziehm, Wrentzel was attracted to the land on Greenwood Mountain Road she purchased from her grandmother Beverly Spofford.

Wrentzel cleared stumps, lived in a tent, hauled water by hand and had a chicken coop.

She was drawn to woods at a young age, hiking Mount Washington when she was 6 or 7 and Knife’s Edge on Mt. Katahdin at age 9 with her mother and father, Ziehm said.

“Her love of the outdoors was at a very young age,” she said. “That’s what we would do, we’d come to her house, or we’d visit her, and we were just gone, building treehouses.”

After her death, her friends and family, some of whom had never met before, set out to build a place where Wrentzel could be remembered. It would be filled with edible plants next to the land and woods she loved.

“We have this place of living flowers and an edible landscape that is also beautiful — it’s a spot of light,” Ziehm said.

The garden was constructed according to Wrentzel’s wishes. An avid reader, writer and artist, she wrote a letter titled “for my death” years before she died.

“For those who would send flowers, don’t,” she wrote. “Instead, plant trees. Oak, maple, birch, willow, and ash are some of my favorites, as well as berry bushes, lilac bushes, or any perennials but it is against my wishes to have any flowers cut for my death … I would love for each person who loved me to plant a tree and tend it and love it.”

“You can sit here and enjoy nature,” Ziehm said. “She always said, ‘Get outside, turn off the TV.’ If you stare at concrete long enough, you forget the Earth is alive. So now we can meditate and experience what she loved and think about her.”


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