Our Roots

Historical Perspective

John Campbell Britton passed away on Sunday, September 2, 2001, of pancreatic cancer.  He was surrounded by family and friends at McKinney Creel Ranch, in Klamath River, California.

John was born in Ely, Nevada, on December 14, 1937.  He was raised in Palo Alto and lived in Oakland for many years.  A graduate of The California College of Arts and Crafts in 1965, he received an MFA in Sculpture from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967. He taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts for a number of years. He lived briefly in Monument Oregon, working as a buckaroo, and operating a small commercial cattle ranch.

He founded Britton Tree Services, Inc in St. Helena, CA in 1976, in which he worked with his wife and companion for 20 years, Denice Froehlich Britton. During the next 25 years in the tree business, he became a nationally respected arborist, who was actively involved in his community and profession. John received numerous awards for his contributions to arboriculture over the years, including the Tree Care Industry Association, formerly the National Arborist Association, and Award of Merit for his outstanding service. John was a member of the TCIA for nearly 20 years, in a career that spanned more than 30 years in the profession. From safety to education to improving professionalism, he was a pioneer in arboriculture.

One of the first to bring in outside trainers to teach crews safe work practices and aerial rescue techniques, he was a staunch supporter of the idea that certification would help elevate the profession back when the idea was not popular. He believed that tree workers should understand tree biology enough to be able to care for trees with skill, passion and understanding. His greatest efforts were directed toward teaching tree workers to prune in a way that enhances a trees appearance while at the same time improving its health or structure.

John was on the founding Western Chapter ISA Certification Committee, which developed the first Study Guide for Arborists and Tree Workers. He later became Chairman of that Committee. John and Denice ran WCISA Certification Program from the Britton Tree offices for over 5 years while it was becoming established. That program became the blueprint for today’s International Society of Arboriculture Certification Program, a world wide program with more than 17,000 participants around the globe.

A member of the board of directors of the National Arborist Association and past president of Western Chapter of ISA, he also served as ISA representative to ANSI A300 committee and was past president of the NAPA Valley Chapter of the California Arborist Association. In addition, John served as trustee of the National Arborist Foundation and volunteered on numerous other committees.

His willingness to fight for trees, his dedication and love of caring for trees – translated into concrete efforts on behalf of the profession of arboriculture – will sorely be missed. The field of arboriculture is fortunate to have had John Britton as a member of our profession.

Upon his death, the Western Chapter ISA set up a fund to honor the memory of “the pinnacle arborist”. This fund has grown into what is today known as “The Britton Fund”.