Why We Give: Millie
Remembering Mom: Sons Pay Tribute With a Tree 

Millie Bender Wolff

Millie Bender Wolff would be proud of her sons.

In their mother’s memory, they dedicated a tree at the Missouri Botanical Garden, a gift that honors her devotion to her father and her affection for the Garden.

The tree, in her sons’ words, also gives Millie’s grandchildren a lovely place to spend time with her memory.

Millie loved the outdoors and loved the Missouri Botanical Garden. She was a witty character with a penchant for writing. Millie was 93 when she passed away in 2010.

She split her time in her later years between homes in University City and Palm Beach, Florida, but she maintained a lifelong emotional connection to Middletown, Ohio.

Millie was born Middletown as the daughter of Benjamin and Ruth Bender and the twin sister of Robert. In the 1940s, her father began donating tree saplings to fifth graders every Arbor Day through his support of the Arbor Tree Foundation.

The family continued the tradition after Ben’s death in 1960, and Millie contributed to a trust to ensure the sapling giveaway remained a vibrant program in her father’s memory in Middletown. The sapling program has led to the planting of more than 115,000 trees in Middletown and is a perfect complement to Millie’s life in St. Louis.

“She loved the Garden,” said her youngest son, Alvin A. Wolff Jr. “I used to bring her here in a wheelchair when she couldn’t walk anymore.”

Alvin and his older brothers, Mack “Mickey” Bender Shaw and Henry Shaw, who shares his name with the 19th-century Garden founder, chose to dedicate the historic tree at Tower Grove House as a way to sustain the Bender family legacy and honor their mother in a place she loved.

Mickey demonstrates a bit of his mother’s wit when, in response to a question about what Millie would think about this gift, says, “She would probably say, ‘My sons finally got it right.’”