Timothy Dean Gerrity: Red Buckeye

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

The Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, is one of the great buckeye species native to North America. In the early spring its red blooms make this specimen tree particularly attractive to hummingbirds. In the landscape this is a small tree which will reach twenty to thirty feet in height. It is particularly notable for its classic buckeye seeds which are large and tan and its classic buckeye leaves which are palmately compound. In the Southeastern United States this is one of the best shade-tolerant trees for almost any property.

Timothy Dean Gerrity

Timothy Dean Gerrity was a remarkable father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, colleague, and especially adoring husband to his beloved bride of 52 years, Leslie—his “Essie.”

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Tim’s father, Alvin, died in action during World War II when Tim was just three weeks old. Three years later, his mother Jane married Tom Richards, who lovingly helped to raise him. Tim attended Miami University as an undergrad, then the Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law. He spent more than 50 years practicing family law in Columbus, bringing insight and sharp, cheerful wit to the courtroom, wise and caring mentorship to his fellow attorneys, and compassion embroidered with gentle humor to his clients.

When he met Leslie, he found another loving dad in his father-in-law—surgeon Richard W. Zollinger—who became a dear friend, and fellow raconteur on topics like college football, politics, and jazz. He also discovered a second mom in mother-in-law Mary, who he loved to make laugh, along with scads of siblings, nieces, and nephews in the extended Zollinger clan.

Tim’s delight in and affection for his children Kim, Kelly, and Will, grandchildren Jessica and Timothy, as well as his many nieces and nephews (and their children) was undeniable. As each one grew up, he would continue to reenact the moments that had entertained him —remembering songs they made up when they were little verbatim, the brilliance and humor of their early interpretations of life’s events, or their early childhood strangeness, such as one niece staring into her hands in deep fascination, saying “I have sooo many fingers” over and over.

He had a host of special talents, like giving family members and friends one-of-a-kind nicknames, reciting the lines of old movies and old school soul tunes by heart, and constantly singing silly (but clever) observations of the things he was doing, the notable characteristics of the people around him, or whatever might be happening within his orbit.

Together, he and Leslie (who he also referred to as “Peachy”) were culinary adventurers, dance partners, armchair standup comedians, and romantics. They thrived in the company of friends and family but enjoyed each other most of all. They created their own well-rehearsed rendition of “Happy birthday”—most often sung by phone or text message—which always ended with Tim’s jazz scat vocal riffs. Over many years in Ohio, they populated their yard with new trees—each one planted as a reminder of beings that were special to them, including family members and friends (and pets) who had passed.

Tim and Leslie retired to North Carolina a few years ago, where they loved to look through the trees that lined their view of Lake Norman and continued their memory tree tradition—planting a white Myrtle as a friends’ tree and a weeping Cherry as a family tree. After Tim passed suddenly on March 13, 2024, it seemed fitting to dedicate the care of a flowering Buckeye tree in the land of the Tar Heels to him, where people who loved him are invited to reflect and remember, and fellow tree lovers can get a chance to make his acquaintance and learn a couple of things about his intelligence and warmth.

Many more trees have been and will continue to be planted by friends and loved ones everywhere as they remember him and the sweet energy he brought to his time in the world.

Written by niece Tracy “sooo many fingers” Zollinger Turner, in honor of this memorial
gift from family members Rick and Elizabeth Zollinger, Barbara Sweney, Ann Leathery,
and all of their children and grandchildren.

To learn more about Tim Gerrity, including sweet reflections from his wife, children, and grandchildren, read his obituary.