A 100-foot Douglas fir tree has been in the backyard of Umpqua Community College shooting survivor Julie Woodworth as long as she can remember.
But lately it’s developed a pronounced lean, and a concerned neighbor brought that fact to the attention of community leaders who helped raise $1,875 to pay for its removal.
Finally, Thursday, the tree began coming down piece by piece.
Just before work on the tree began, at 8 a.m. Thursday, Woodworth came out for a last look and to pose for a picture with the old tree in the backyard of her Roseburg home.
She was matter-of-fact about the tree’s removal.
“It’s a safety hazard,” she said.
She rolled out in a wheelchair, though she said she could get out of it if she wanted to. And she spoke about the tree and how she’s doing.
What’s remarkable about that is that on Oct. 1, 2015, Woodworth was shot five times, with one of the bullets lodging in her brain. Doctors weren’t sure she’d walk or talk again.
She can do both.
After the shooting, Woodworth underwent multiple surgeries, including brain surgery, and followed up with physical and speech therapy. Through it all, she has persevered. She’s proud of the progress she’s made, and said she’s feeling good.
“I’m great,” she said.
Julie hasn’t gone back to her old job at Wal-Mart cashier or back to school. She’s been staying home and said she gets a bit bored, but fills her time with card games and puzzles.
“I want to go back to school later, UCC, then, I don’t know. I was thinking of Eugene,” she said.
She said she appreciated the community’s efforts to raise funds to remove the tree.
“It feels good,” she said, as she threw a ball for her Australian Shepherd Curly.
Later that morning, Kody Williams of Oregon Tree Works climbed his way up the tree, which he estimated was about 35 years old, sawing off branches as he went, tying them to ropes and sending them down to be pushed through a chipper.
Next, the trunk would be dismantled in firewood-sized pieces. The firewood will be sent to the Redeemer’s Fellowship church, which will distribute it to people who don’t have much money and can use it to heat their homes.
Williams said he was happy to help.
“I’m really here just to provide a service,” he said. “It’s good to be part of it.”
Jim Daniel is the Woodworths’ neighbor. He was alerted to the leaning tree problem by Dave Hu, of the Tile Wizard, who had worked on an accessible shower for Daniel and was working on one for Julie this summer.
Daniel said he was inspired by what he learned about leadership as an Advanced Toastmaster in the local Toastmasters Club to step up and do something about the leaning tree.
It’s all about being a good neighbor, he said.
“It’s about taking charge, getting something done that needs to be done that everybody else is walking away and ignoring,” he said.
Daniel’s own home wasn’t in harm’s way, nor was the Woodworths’, but if the tree were to fall, two other neighbors’ homes could have been seriously damaged, and the Woodworths might have been held liable for the damage.
Daniel said his efforts received a boost when first County Commissioner Chris Boice and then Greater Douglas United Way became involved.
United Way Executive Director Bryan Trenkle said the project was first brought to UCC Strong, but since it wasn’t directly related to the shooting, the committee felt it didn’t qualify for those funds. The United Way agreed to act as a fiscal agent for the project, and Boice let potential contributors know what was needed. Several local businesses and a few individuals wrote checks to pay for the tree’s removal.
Top donors were Lone Rock Timber Management Company and the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe, each of which contributed $500.