With loss of tree a reminder of Marion’s past

Jan 31, 2023

MARION — The 100-year-old Norway Spruce in front of Sippican School in Marion was more than a tree, it was a “cradle of memories.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, trucks carrying workers, chainsaws, ropes and pulleys arrived at Sippican School in Marion to cut down the towering tree after it was struck by lightning and deemed a “hazard.”

According to Marion Parks and Tree Committee Chair Margie Baldwin, an assessment from Bartlett Tree Experts determined that the tree was “too compromised” and needed to come down.

“We were, needless to say, upset about that,” Baldwin said.

For many Marion residents, including Sippican School music teacher Hannah Moore, the tree was more than wood, branches and pine needles.

At the base of the tree, she explained, sits a garden dedicated to former Sippican School principal Mary Lou Hobson. The garden is also dedicated to the memory of four students who died while enrolled at the school: Cory Jackson, Alexis Wisner, Andrew Rego and Marques Sylvia.

The garden was designed by former Marion Select Board Member Steve Gonsalves, and Marion Parks and Tree Committee member Susannah Davis.

When Moore found out the tree was coming down, she began contacting the families of each memorialized student to tell them the news and to gain their input on the situation.

“I don't know if they're going to want to be involved or not, but still, they should have the opportunity,” she said. “I'm really pushing for engagement with these different families.”

According to Moore, everyone she has been able to contact understands the need to cut down the tree and wants to be involved if they are able.

Baldwin hopes that a new memorial garden can be planted for the four students.

“We're going to get together and decide how we're going to improve this garden,” she said. “We may plant four trees, one for each family.”

Cutting the tree

On the day of the cutting, workers moved quickly, reducing the tree to a four-foot diameter stump in a little over two hours.

Harry Harmon, a worker with Nadeau Tree Service, was hoisted 85 feet in the air above the tree. His job was to cut off pieces of the tree, which would then be lowered to the ground and cut further.

According to Ryan Nadeau, owner of Nadeau Tree Service, cutting down a tree is a “science.” In fact, he prefers the term “calculated tree removal.”

“These are educated guys,” said Nadeau, referring to his workers. “You don’t see tattooed, chain-smoking, chainsaw-wielding bikers anymore.”

While Harmon was dangled above the tree, Shayne Bradford maneuvered the crane that brought down each log. On the ground, Duel Branco and Mason Shea cut branches off each log, shredded undesirable pieces of wood and saved anything that could be used.

According to Marion Tree Warden Lee Gunschel, seven logs from the tree will be saved and used for woodworking projects in honor of the memorial garden and the tree itself.

After the final section of tree was cut, and the sound of chainsaws and machinery died out, Gonsalves quietly counted the tree stump’s exposed rings.

He hopes to keep the stump in the ground, so it can be used as a table and teaching tool for future generations of Sippican School students. Students could learn about the circle of life by learning about this tree, he said.

This tree was “like a person,” said Gonsalves. “Sooner or later it’s time to go.”