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Veterans group and businesses contribute to effort to fell tree and protect historical landmarks.

PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - A giant oak tree, damaged during the windstorm on Labor Day, threatened more than a dozen headstones of Civil War veterans before it was taken down on Dec. 4 in Newberg.

A consortium of unconnected groups recently gathered in a local cemetery to preserve history while performing a community service.

The groups — ranging from Veterans of Foreign Wars members to a local tree service, a crane company and the sexton of the cemetery — could be seen with their gaze cast skyward as they gathered on a frigid Dec. 4 morning at Newberg Friends Cemetery.

Their assemblage came about due to strong winds that struck the area three months prior. Many trees in the graveyard — which is more than 140 years old and is actually an amalgam of the Friends Cemetery, the Fernwood Grange Cemetery and the Grand Army of the Republic or GAR Cemetery — suffered damage from the windstorm on Labor Day.PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - A local tree service and a crane company joined to carefully take down the tree in Newberg Friends Cemetery.

Some trees were toppled and did not survive. Others had their limbs blown to the ground, including an ancient oak that sat adjacent to a prominent obelisk for more than a century. Roughly 35 feet of the once towering hardwood remained.

That's when the call went out that there was work to be done as the historic cemetery was at risk: beneath the tree were the granite and marble headstones of more than 15 Civil War veterans, all carefully maintained over the past 150-plus years since the end of the conflict.

A few of the headstones had been knocked over, but otherwise emerged from the storm undamaged, cemetery sexton Mark Thompson said. The headstones were spared during this windstorm, but it's unlikely they would have survived the next.PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - A tree feller secures one section of the tree before it is lowered to the ground by an immense crane on Dec. 4.

The memorial adjacent to the oak tree was severely damaged when one of the oak's limbs fell on it in September. The memorial was erected by the GAR, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Daughters of Union Veterans and Women's Relief Corps, all organizations of people who were descendants of Civil War veterans or connected in some other way.

The members of the VFW were first to answer the call. Within a few days after the windstorm they descended on the cemetery to clean up the limbs, bucking them into cord wood to be donated to Love INC's wood ministry.

"This was more of an act of love and service for us," Thompson said.

Then, VFW officials contacted Three Sawyers Mill owners Don Griswold and Mark Evans, who donated all their time and labor and began coordinating removal of the giant oak. The VFW post paid for a giant crane from Cascade Tower & Rigging and a crew from a local tree service to cut the tree into manageable pieces and lower them to the ground.

Several large sections of the tree were sold to an exotic woods dealer for $450, with the proceeds going to the cemetery.PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - A tree feller prepares to saw away one section of the tree.

"It was cheap, but it was our only option to do," Griswold said. "If we had kept the trees, it would have been a multi-year commitment for us. Hardwoods take a long time to cure and dry with kiln drying being part of the process. We did not want that kind of commitment. It sounds cheap, but the buyer has now assumed all that responsibility."

The remaining wood was split into more than three cords of firewood and donated to Love INC as well.

"It was an honor for us to help remove this tree that could have caused considerable amount of damage to this memorial," Griswold said, adding that he and Evens are veterans who felt compelled to help out the VFW post.

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