'Years of memories': Readers share stories of special trees

They provided shade on sunny summer days on P.E.I. Their kids climbed on their long, strong branches. Their mother’s ashes were even placed under them. Some of the trees that were lost in post-tropical storm Dorian had a lot of sentimental value to Islanders

Trees have sentimental meaning for some Islanders

Many trees on P.E.I. were destroyed during post-tropical storm Dorian Sept. 7. (Alicia Mary-Beth/Facebook)

They provided shade on sunny summer days on P.E.I. Their kids climbed on their long, strong branches. Their mother's ashes were even placed under them.

Some of the trees that were lost in post-tropical storm Dorian had a lot of sentimental value to Islanders. When the trees blew down and were destroyed, people lost more than just leaves and branches.

People shared their stories for the CBC P.E.I. Leaf Relief initiative, which provided more than 1,000 white spruce, eastern larch, red maple and yellow birch free to the public to replace trees lost on their properties.

Here are some of the stories sent in by Islanders who lost special trees in the storm. Some have been edited for length and clarity.

Mother's ashes were under the tree

Brenda MacPhee was able to recover her mother's ashes, but the tree was destroyed. (Submitted by Brenda MacPhee)

I lost a special tree during Dorian. 

Our precious Shih Tzu died on March 2 and my husband and I decided to bury her under our beautiful tree. The ground was frozen and it took my husband six hours to dig the hard ground. This spring I also decided to spread my mother's ashes beside Baby, placing her stone on top. I planted flowers and placed a beautiful statue on top. 

The day of the storm I worked a 12-hour shift, leaving work at 6:15 p.m. As I got into my car I was scared because I didn't know what the road conditions would be like or if any trees would be down or objects flying in the air. 

I looked down and there was a dime on the floor that was not there before. I knew my mother was with me and I would make it home. The drive was scary but I did make it home in one piece.

When I drove in the yard I noticed the tree where I laid my two most favourite beings had fallen down. I was heartbroken.

When the weather cleared up, I scooped up my mother's ashes in a bucket and we got rid of the fallen tree. I was relieved that the stones were not broken. 

Brenda MacPhee, Coleman

Wooden bowls a reminder of uncle 

Nicole Phillips's uncle made these wooden bowls out of a poplar tree that was destroyed in 2014. (Submitted by Nicole Phillips)

I was devastated in 2014 when a 30-foot poplar tree that graced my front lawn split and half of it came down during a freak wind storm. I had purchased my humble abode in 2011 primarily because of the mature trees that were on the lot, and this one in particular that was at the centre of my front lawn.

My best friend, who is all knowing and my advisor on all things house related, recommended that the remaining part of the tree should also be cut down, as the tree's stability had been compromised. I was crushed to hear this but knew he was right. So he cut the rest of the tree down — for which I was so grateful to him — but I asked to have a few pieces of the wider part of the trunk cut in two-foot sections, as I had an idea to let my tree live on.

My uncle Joe LeBlanc in Halifax, who just turned 88 on Oct. 3, is a tremendous woodworker. He was a bit hesitant because poplar is not the best wood to work with, but he agreed to try and turn these chunks of wood into bowls. I lugged the wood over to Nova Scotia and at Easter 2015 he presented me with the three beautiful bowls (in return for a good bottle of his favourite rum!).

I think of my poplar every time I look at these beautiful creations that "stemmed" from it at the hand of my skilled uncle.

Nicole Phillips, Stratford

Mr. Macho to the rescue

Lynda Morgan's dinner guests were delayed on their way home when a tree fell over and blocked the access road. (Submitted by Lynda Morgan)

We live on 13 hectares of mostly forest in Canavoy with waterfront on Savage Harbour and a three-quarter kilometre access road. On the night of Dorian, we invited a couple of neighbours over for a "Dorian dinner" because we figured the power would go out in the middle of dinner and we have a generator that runs our house seamlessly during a power loss. 

Just as I feared, the power went out during dinner and the winds whipped around, like the flying house scene in the Wizard of Oz. At one point, I mentioned that I was worried about trees coming down on our access road, but it was brushed aside by my macho husband responding, "I've got a chainsaw!" 

After what I believe our guests deemed an appropriately polite time, they prudently decided that they should make an early night of it. I asked them to hold on tight to the deck rail and watched anxiously as they slowly and carefully made their way through the high winds to their nearby van.

Shortly after, they called to say there was a tree down blocking their way out. My 67-year-old husband, Mr. Macho, jumped into action and took off into the black of the night, leaving me standing in the doorway listening to Dorian's roar. 

There were two large trees blocking the road that Mr. Macho cleared in the dark, during Dorian! And there was a third tree leaning over the road that our neighbour's van just managed to sneak under. The next day it was blocking the access road and had to be cleared with the chain saw.

In addition, as Mr. Macho headed back to the house in his pickup, he was blocked by another tree that had come down between him and the house. So he abandoned his pickup and made his way back through the storm on foot. 

In total, we had four very large trees come down across our access road and we spent the next morning clearing the remaining two. It was a full week, pretty much to the hour, that we were without power.

The good news is I can't tell you how many times the neighbours have mentioned how impressed they were with Mr. Macho's chainsaw-wielding abilities.

Lynda Morgan and Steve Stewart, Canavoy

Tree brings family full circle

Nicole Ward says these trees are a reminder her grandmother is looking down on them. (Submitted by Nicole Ward)

My daughter, husband and I moved to P.E.I. three years ago from Ontario. We had never been to the Island, and knew no one here. Our daughter was 10 months old at the time, and we wanted a nice place to raise her. P.E.I. seemed like the perfect place.  

My grandmother, who passed away in 1999, always spoke fondly of the Island. Her brother, Bud Miller, settled here with his wife and kids. 

When I moved to P.E.I., my aunt reminded me that my great-uncle Bud's wife Evelyn was still her living in the Stamper house in Charlottetown. I went to visit her. She talked about the farm she used to own and her sons, and her fond memories of my grandmother visiting. 

Months later I met her again at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital where I was working and she was a patient. There I met her grandson, Ben, my cousin, and his wife who had just given birth to their second child.  

We discovered we had daughters who were only months apart in age. We exchanged numbers and he invited me to a Sunday dinner at his parents' house. We all bonded beautifully.

Our daughters — now three years later — are best friends. We go for dinner every Sunday at the farm in Emyvale my great-aunt was telling me about, which is now owned by her son, Allan Miller. 

In the front yard are two beautiful red maples the kids play under all summer long. The year before she passed away, my grandmother and aunt came to visit family in P.E.I. and planted those red maples.  

Twenty years later her granddaughter and great-granddaughter are enjoying these trees all the time. I feel like we have come full circle and that my grandmother had a hand in guiding me to find this family in P.E.I., and these trees are a reminder of that and that she is looking down watching us, and watching the family come together and watching my daughter grow. 

Thankfully, the trees survived the storm. I tried to get seeds from the tree to plant in my own yard but was not successful.

Nicole Ward, Kensington

Birds and I will miss the poplars

Julie Wilkie says she was upset to discover a big pile of red dirt on her property was the roots of trees that had fallen over. (Submitted by Julie Wilkie)

We have nestled into Beach Point since moving here in 2016. We had 10 beautiful old poplars that were so tall and healthy. They provided shade for us and lots of space for birds of all types.

At about 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, while Dorian was whacking us with its mightiest winds and rain, we heard a loud noise. Our dogs were up barking and though I looked out, I couldn't see anything through the pelting rain. Our dogs went out and came back in, still barking. 

About 7 a.m. we were up looking outside and I saw something deep red out of the corner of my eye. It was the dirt standing up in the air probably about five metres. It was the roots of our trees. They were pulled right up out of the ground and were laying across our lawn into the neighbour's property. The electrical wires were down with the trees and the transformer on the pole at our neighbour's was scattered all over the ground.

Our poor trees!  We were so upset. 

We hired Rob's Odd Jobs to help remove the trees. They worked on it for three days and used the excavator. Some of the tree roots would be the size of an adult man's thigh. 

Now the branches are chipped and spread out. The trees are cut into eight-foot lengths. We're cutting up smaller trunks for firewood next year. 

We're so fortunate that the wind didn't uproot them and toss them onto our house. We're saddened to lose our trees. Thankfully we planted some fruit trees this past spring in memory of some family that have passed away. 

Julie and Doug Wilkie, Beach Point

Children loved climbing the maple

Gail DesRoches says her boys spent countless hours playing in the maple tree in their yard. (Submitted by Gail DesRoches)

We lost quite a few trees in our yard from the wrath of Dorian, but the one that hurt losing the most was the Manitoba Maple that was just off my back doorstep. 

I have three boys, all grown now, who grew up climbing this tree for countless hours. The tree offered such a nice umbrella of shade that when we put in a sandbox for the boys, we positioned it so that it would be in the shade of this tree during the heat of summer afternoons. 

And now it's gone, except for what remains of the stump. It just looks so bare without it there. 

Gail DesRoches, Lot 16

Trees protected the shoreline

Jennifer Parsons says they lost 40 trees along their shoreline property. (Submitted by Jennifer Parsons)

We woke up at 6 a.m. the morning after the storm and saw that we lost around 50 trees along the waterfront in front of our home. We were in disbelief.

The land we live on is a big part of my husband's history. His grandfather owned all of this property and left it to his mom, who gave acreage to each of her three sons. We love this property, much for its charm on the north side. Having lost all these trees will mean if we don't start putting trees back to replace them, we will lose a lot of our shoreline to erosion.

Each tree had a story, like an apple tree my husband climbed as a child. A tree that sheltered our dock and gave us shade is gone. So many years of memories.

Jennifer Parsons

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