When the Groves family discovered a beautiful red maple tree in our St. Croix Valley forest it felt like a sign. Just a short drive from where they all grew up, Better Place Forests St. Croix Valley immediately brought back memories of family camping trips and cherished time together. In this forest, they found a unique tree that spoke to their close family bond — a tree with seven trunks for each member of the family. We spoke with the Groves about what it means to them to have a family tree for themselves and their future generations. Learn more about their story below.


The five children of the Groves family — Pam, Steve, Dave, Tim, and Susie — grew up with their parents Maxine and Jim in Minnesota. Where most of the family still lives today. Now with their own kids and grandkids, this close-knit family continues to grow in size and in their love for one another.

A few of the children began looking into end-of-life options for their parents. Maxine, now 90 years old, wanted her ashes to be together with her late husband. “I promised Mom that I would try to come up with a place that we could call our own. And I couldn't find it,” said eldest son Steve. 

It wasn’t until Pam began making her own arrangements that she found the perfect tree for the entire family. Pam initially discovered Better Place Forests when considering a memorial tree for herself and her husband, but seeing a seven-spired red maple inspired her. She loved the idea of having one spot for the whole family.

As a family of nature lovers, being laid to rest in the forest seemed perfect. And not only is it a beautiful place for Mom and Dad, someday the kids and their kids can join them when they pass away too.

“Mom, Dad, all the siblings, we've always been outdoor people,” said Steve. And for this family, being in nature is often a spiritual experience. Pam added “All of us feel God's presence very strongly when we're out in nature. So we’re making our own little altar out there in the world.”

“I think all of us have found solace in the natural world. Being out in the woods gives you time to reflect,” said middle child Tim. “This is a place where we can all go and take a moment to stop and smell the roses.” In fact, Steve added, “none of our family's ashes have gone indoors. They've all been outdoors. And we all go back to these places, year after year.”

Traditional graveyards never seemed right for the Groves. “When I go to a cemetery, I feel uncomfortable. I look around and there are rows and rows of headstones. It seems very cold,” said Steve. “And there’s nothing cold about this entire family,” added Susie.

The Groves family finds joy in the fact that surviving and future relatives will have a spot to visit to feel close to the family. “It’s a place we can all enjoy,” said Steve. “Maybe sit for a moment and go for a walk with the kids and the grandkids. Reminisce a little bit about Grandpa and Grandma and Mom and Dad.” Making this choice as a family has let them continue to enjoy the outdoors together — a place they can visit and connect, as well as a final resting place when the time comes.