, Newburyport, MA

February 14, 2014

A soaring tribute

Tree stump to be transformed into veterans memorial

By Elizabeth Rose

---- — In our world of horse, dolphin and dog whisperers, it is no surprise that tree whisperers walk in our midst.

Although not everyone can forge an American bald eagle from the remains of a towering oak tree, Richard Mullen, Diane Drinan and Justin Gordon sure can.

Mullen, a Navy reservist from the Vietnam era and a Georgetown resident, and Drinan, the executive director of the Georgetown Housing Authority, are raising money to hire Gordon, a Groveland wood and sand sculptor, to “release” the hidden eagle from the remains of a 9-foot tree stump.

When completed, the sculpture will honor those who have served military duty. It will also act as a site of beauty for contemplation and reflection within the Trestle Way Georgetown Housing Authority complex.

The idea began with a disaster.

Drinan had issued plans for tree removal at the Trestle Way complex last spring. The morning of the removal, she arrived at work a half-hour early and found that one of the trees already cut was not intended for removal.

“I sent the crew home and began searching for a chain saw artist,” Drinan said. “By the end of the day, I had found out we needed a 9-foot stump. So that is what we did. We cut it to a 9-foot stump.

“Luckily, I came in a half-hour early that day,” she said. “I saw the vets memorial just right when I looked at (the tree), vets because that is who we have here.”

Mullen added that Drinan has a warm spot in her heart for all veterans and the service they have contributed. They both see the sculpture as a way to honor veterans of all wars.

The tree stump is centrally located near the resident office and a turnaround in the Trestle Way complex. A bench already in place will serve as an invitation for anyone to sit and easily commune with the eagle sculpture.

The renovation from a tree stump into a sculpture of beauty and inspiration is symbolic of veterans’ transformations when they return from duty, Mullen said.

“It’s kind of like someone comes back, and they are kind of mangled from the war, either psychologically or physically, and then you help them and do something to really make them stand out and shine again,” he said. “It’s the same idea as the tree.

“The tree was almost a disaster, broken and gonna be ripped out, and all of a sudden, it’s wait a minute, let’s make it something,” he said. “We know the eagle was in the tree already, waiting. It’s there already.”

Mullen’s military service was life-changing, he said.

“My service changed my world view and impressed upon me how fortunate we are to be Americans,” he said. “I learned that war means sacrifice — very serious sacrifice. Many of my contemporaries who were deployed to Vietnam came home with physical and mental life-changing injuries. I think war always results in conflicted outcomes.”

Chandler Noyes, a veteran residing in Georgetown, expects to find special meaning in the memorial.

“It will serve as a reminder that my active duty helped to make a difference during the Korean War,” Noyes said.

Mullen and Drinan also plan to implant a time capsule within the sculpture. It will be scheduled for opening in 75 years. The capsule will include the names of all Georgetown veterans who perished in a war, as well as the names of donors who contribute to complete the sculpture.

The sculpture will live outdoors until rot begins to show in the base of the stump, Gordon said. It can then be safely removed from the roots and displayed forever in an inside location, perhaps Georgetown Town Hall. A resin mold could also be made of the sculpture to take the place of the original outdoors.

The tentative date for completion is Memorial Day. The tree, the sculptor and the plan are all in place. The missing ingredient is contributions from the community to achieve the $5,500 goal. A fundraising campaign initiated in December has thus far raised $950.

Plans to involve local Scout troops and start an online Kickstarter campaign are being considered.

Contributions may be sent to Georgetown Bank, 2 E. Main St., Georgetown, MA 01833. Checks should be made payable to the Georgetown Housing Authority Fundraising Account.