A tree is not always simply a tree.
South Venice resident Susan Robinson had such a tree, a tree filled with memories of the late Tom Peter, who lived two doors to the east with his wife Lynn.
“He died 10 years ago but he had put a swing in that tree for me,” she said. “He was that kind of neighbor. If you were working in the yard, he would show up with a shovel and help. He was a good friend and so selfless.
“The Peters were my inspiration to learn how to do yardwork.”
These days, Robinson’s yard is a showpiece of manicured lawn and carefully planned and trimmed landscape beds to frame house and yard. She does it all, except for trimming the giant oaks that shade her house. When one of those oaks had to be removed, Robinson decided to ask the tree trimmers to save a section of the tree that she would turn into a bench to place beneath another oak as a memorial to her friend Tom.
Steve Grant, the owner of Green Tops in North Port, sent a crew of four to Robinson’s home to cut down the massive tree and trim some other trees.
It was a big job.
The men brought a branch-shredder truck, a cherry picker truck and trucks to haul away the debris from the massive tree. Cutting down and hauling away big trees is a normal job in this area where people plant live oaks for shade and then, after a few years, discover the oak that shades their house also may be strangling underground water pipes or damaging the roof if a giant branch breaks away in a storm. Oak trees do not grow as fast as ficus trees but they can cause just as many problems above and below ground when they reach a certain size. Removal is the best solution when that happens.
This time, the men from Tree Tops couldn’t just remove the tree.
Robinson had sent photos of the tree to the company, indicating the exact branch she wanted to save for her memorial bench and why.
That is all she wanted — to save one section of a special branch in memory of her friend and gardening mentor.
The tree men thought it was a great idea — such a great idea that they wanted to help.
Armed with their chain saws, they not only saved the special branch which would become the bench seat, they also saved two large sections of the tree trunk to support the bench seat.
As a round branch would not be too comfortable as a bench seat, using only their chain saws, the men trimmed the branch down to the size of a wood plank about 7 feet in length.
They then cut two sections of the tree trunk to the same height to serve as the base for the bench. They moved the trunk sections to a shady spot beneath another oak in the front yard, spacing them far enough apart that two or three people could sit on the bench at the same time.
Some people might simply have nailed the plank across the top of the two trunk sections.
Robinson got more than she bargained for.
The tree trimmers cut out an area of each trunk to the thickness and width of the plank, carving that cut out space to take up about half the width of the trunk bases. Again, they were just using chain saws. When they finished, the plank seat fit perfectly into the cut out areas the men had made in each section of the tree trunk. Their customer had her memorial bench.
They did it all in about an hour, a beaming Robinson said as she pointed to what has become an architectural feature of her perfectly manicured front yard. Both yard and bench are a tribute to the kindly neighbor who hung a swing in that tree for her 15 years ago.
Lynn Peter still lives two doors away. She, too, is happy about the job the men did to honor her late husband.