By Andrew Zaleski June 5, 201
Walk through Baltimore’s neighborhoods, and look up. The fan-shaped ginkgo leaves and ruby-red pearls dangling from cherry branches are the literal fruits of how Gene DeSantis has spent the predominant part of his life. On Saturdays, the slight, cap-wearing 57-year-old plants trees. By his count, 15,223 of them over the past 40 years.
For DeSantis, an MVP to local greening outfits, the routine began as a form of therapy. The Baltimore native spent some of his childhood in Los Angeles, with an alcoholic stepfather and drug-addicted mother. On the nights his stepfather’s drunkenness turned violent, the young DeSantis climbed trees in the yard to find peace. “Trees became my friends,” he says. “You could say I kind of grew up there.”