By Dave Ongie, News Editor
Back in 1914, a young couple built a home for themselves in what would become known at the Tree Streets district of Johnson City.
After the home was built, they got busy planting trees on the property, including a pair of Silver Maples that stood side-by-side in the front yard. Those trees proved to be sturdy, providing shade and beauty for several decades.
But trees don’t live forever. The first of the two maples came down abruptly during a wind shear in 2008 and landed atop the home, which is now occupied by Dr. Julie Wade, a retired professor who used to teach at Milligan.
Wade now lives in the house that was built by her grandparents all those years ago, and she marveled at the craftsmanship of the structure when 26,000 pounds of tree barely put a dent in the place. Then last year, Wade began to notice the second tree was starting to show signs of deterioration.
“The second tree had kind of been going downhill ever since,” Wade said. “I think it missed its buddy or something.”
The realization that the second tree was going to need to come down made Wade emotional. Her grandmother loved trees, and the loss of the second maple would sever a tangible tie between the two women.
With the tree set to be cut down, Wade learned about a group called the Tri-Cities Woodturners Club. The local woodturners use their unique abilities to craft items out of wood and frequently look for ways to give to local charitable organizations.
Don Samples tipped off fellow woodturner Dave Culberson about Wade’s situation, and Culberson sprung into action. On the day the tree was set to come down, Culberson was on hand at Wade’s home to collect some of the wood from the old maple.
“She felt it was time, but it was very emotional for her. I could tell,” Culberson said. “I stood there and watched most of it come down. Every time a branch or a piece of wood hit the ground, you could just hear her groan.”
Wade’s request was a simple one. She wanted Culberson to salvage some good wood from the tree and craft that wood into items she could keep and distribute to other members of the family as keepsakes.
“I took a couple of small pickup loads and delivered it to a half-dozen guys in our club,” Culberson said.
Each woodturner has his or her own style, so the items that were delivered to Wade last month were all one-of-a-kind collectables. The only thing uniform about the bowls that arrived at Wade’s house was the beautiful maple wood they were carved from.
“I have the most respect for them for what they did and how nice they were,” Wade said. “They were just incredible.”
With the bowls in her possession, a part of that tree planted by her grandmother over 100 years ago will remain in Wade’s life for years to come.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Tri-Cities Woodturners Club can contact Culberson at 423.676.3402, Stan Ritter at 423.552.3019 or Sue Ritter at 423.552.3020.