Family, friends and neighbors delight as Royal Poinciana is uprighted after Irma

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This is a neighborhood story about a Royal Poinciana tree that was blown over in Hurricane Irma.

The tree is a spectacular flowering tree with bright orange flowers in June and July.  It is also very large at 30 ft. x 50 ft. and so dominates the corner lot on which it lives and is a point of light for the neighborhood.

The story actually begins back in 1985 when my best friend Gail Schultz and her husband, Mike owned the house. They were putting in a pool and asked for advice on landscaping. The tree was a scrawny twig of a tree but I recommended they plant it in circular drive out front since it would fill the space once it matured.  Mike wanted to cut it down and thrown away but Gail could see the potential and so it was transplanted by me into the front yard.

Forward to the year 2000 when Sherri Medeiros bought the house from her parents. She has always considered the tree the center of her home.  She and her partner Steve have thought of moving a few times but the tree has kept them there. The tree has been lit for over 15 years with over 6,000 lights due to the herculean efforts of Steve. They have already ordered and received the new lights to replace the ones damaged when the tree was blown over by Irma. And I should add that the side of the tree with the working lights is the side of the tree that has re-foliated already.  

Sherri and Steve evacuated for the hurricane and, before they arrived back home, several people called to tell them that the house was alright but, with sadness in their voices, told them that the Royal Poinciana had fallen over. Sherri immediately sprang into action and called her neighborhood tree company, John Gross of All-in-One-Tree Service, to see if he could help. He put them on the top of the dreaded “list” we all know too well and showed up with his truck to try and right the tree. The tree proved too much for the truck but he was not yet done trying. His company was doing all the clean- up from the hurricane at Marco Lutheran Church on Collier Blvd. That was a monumental task in and of itself that took them over two weeks to get under some semblance of control. But the church also lost their steeple which fell from its perch and through the roof into the sanctuary. John rented a crane to remove the steeple from the church and then brought it to Sherri and Steve to pull their tree back up and replant it. 

I should also add that in the two days they waited for John and the crane many out of state tree trimmers stopped offering to cut the tree into pieces and take it away for them. She was beating them off with a stick, probably from the tree, and according to John one actually accused him of ripping her off since he knew the tree would not survive. They almost came to fisticuffs.  

So John lightened the load by trimming branches back and the tree stood once again. The roots were covered with new dirt and sprinkled with some Osmocote and the tree is showing signs of life.

The best part of the story comes now. Their little neighbor Ginger Roloff showed up with a get well card for the tree. This gesture brought tears to everyone’s eyes.  The card is hand made with a picture of a tree and the animal statues that grace the bottom of the tree trunk and inside the message reads, “Dear tree, “You are so pretty at night with your lights.  You are the prettyist tree in the whole neighborhood. I hope you feel better soon! From Ginger Roloff.”

 When the Marco Eagle reached out to me to see if I would do a story about this neighborhood tree I jumped at the chance. It wasn’t until after accepting the assignment that I remembered it was me who planted the tree in that spot. So Sherri and I set a date so I could meet Ginger and interview everyone. We set the date for Oct. 24 which just happens to be Gail Shultz’s birthday and she came to the island to be at the interview and visit her old house. To my surprise Sherri had planned an entire get together for the event with food and drink in the driveway next to the Royal Poinciana. There were at least eight neighborhood families there and they all had the same thing to say. This tree is a beacon of light that lets them know they are almost home.  And they were all distraught that it might be gone forever. 

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It was a genuine and overwhelming love for this special tree. The children who attended all brought their own “get well” cards for the tree. At the end, the adults toasted the tree with a bottle of Moet champagne.

May it light the way for this neighborhood for many years to come.

Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscape and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at Gswdmarco@comcast.net or 239-394-1413.

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