Leo's legacy: Woman's loss leads to donations honoring Kerrville plane crash victims

KERRVILLE, Texas – When Julie Soefer lost her furry companion of 13 years, she was devastated.

She wanted Leo to leave a legacy on this earth.

After Leo died, Soefer sought a lemon tree to plant in her backyard to memorialize him. She wanted to call it the "Leo Lemon Tree."

When Soefer went searching for the right tree, she struggled to find one big enough to capture the size of his huge soul and presence.

"I left the nurseries feeling sad that we didn't find the right tree," Soefer said.

Enter Soefer's mother, Cindy, who turned to the internet.

Cindy searched the internet for lemon trees in Texas and found the phone number for a man in Hargill, Texas, who owns a citrus farm.

As it turns out, Mani Skaria had recently lost a furry friend of his own. Spotty passed away after 16 years.

After Cindy reached out to him, Skaria, owner of US Citrus, wrote Soefer a heartfelt letter letting her know that he would provide her with a Meyer lemon tree, which is "the best and the biggest we can find in our collection," he said.

In addition, Skaria also provided Soefer with 13 more citrus trees of her choice, representing the 13 years Leo lived.

Soefer's backyard that Leo loved was designed by Mark Scioneaux, a passenger who was killed in a plane crash in Kerrville last week.

Soefer decided to honor the victims of the plane crash by donating a tree to each of the six families who were impacted.

Soefer wanted to make sure people knew about Last Wishes, which is a company that provides on-site hospice care for senior dogs. She said the company came to her house to provide IV treatments for his kidney failure and was even able to provide in-home euthanasia. Leo was terrified of the veterinarian and Soefer was pleased that Leo was able to pass in her arms in her backyard.


Get to know Julie Soefer

Three things to know about Julie Soefer:

  • She has photographed numerous celebrities including J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, Carl Lewis, AJ Foyt and Dennis Quaid.
  • The Houston native is an editorial, commercial and fine arts photographer who has been published in Texas Monthly, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among others.
  • She was the photographer and shot the movie poster for the documentary "Supersize Me."