High tidings from above Eagle Harbor | MEANDERLINE

View from atop East Pritchard Park illuminated evergreen.  - Katy Bigelow photo
View from atop East Pritchard Park illuminated evergreen.
— image credit: Katy Bigelow photo

The season of light seemed dark last year in Eagle Harbor. A Christmas Ship ventured from Seattle past children’s bedtimes. Only three harbor boats, all moored, strung lights in rigging. While for the fourth year, the Port of Kingston was a glow in LED magic and wonder from Thanksgiving to mid-January.

Thereafter, a prominent evergreen caught Eagle Harbor eyes. It beckoned alone on the shore of Bill Point and the harbor entrance. From the ferry dock or Hawley on a clear day, it was silhouetted against Mount Rainier. From a ferry, it stood out from the dark forests of East Pritchard Park. Arborist Olaf Ribeiro and horticulturist Irmgard Grabo identified the tree as a Cedrus libani, a Cedar of Lebanon.

It is old — 20-feet tall in a 1940 photo. It is among rare evergreens planted to beautify offices and residences of the wood preservationists’ company town of Creosote. They likely were planted by top UW grad and Supt. Jacob Book. They seem too old to have been planted by UW chemical engineer, 1936 Rose Bowl quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate, Supt. Elmer Logg.

Last April, a chorus sang, “Let’s decorate the tree with light next winter!”

Bob Cederwall, whose star is atop the fir on East Winslow Way, was one of the first to say, “I’m in! Let me know when.”

Bob was many things, among them a certified high tree climber, pruner, topper and faller in the tradition of Islanders Walter Niemi and Dave McArdle. Bob loved forests as well as the BPA stage. We’d shared rainy days falling trees and hauling logs for Yeomalt Cabin. He enabled aerial photos of John Nelson Park at Strawberry Cannery Cove.

Al Haugan, Hawley, retired 35-year electrician who now uses his license to help Habitat for Humanity and others, offered, “Hey, I’ll help! I know the site. I helped electrify neighboring facilities at the EPA Superfund site.”

Ribeiro and others liked the idea. EPA (with electricity nearest the tree), city council, city manager and park officials helped the idea evolve.

Tom Henderson, GTH Design, Poulsbo, joined us. A former Islander and PMYC sailor, Tom led volunteers who created our park district’s first outdoor play area for kids at Strawberry Hill from log ends donated by the creosote company. A lighting specialist, he helped Yeomalt’s cabin restoration and once designed lighting for the first King Tut Exhibit.

As seasons passed and winter approached, the wind left our sails and lungs as much-beloved Bob Cederwall died of a heart attack. In the hours following, I sought guidance from within and among friends including Bob’s wife, Denise Harris. Should we abandon tree lighting plans?

Any hesitancy ceased when I bumped into a dear elderly friend of Bob’s at Rite Aid. We shared news of our mutual loss. Then, firmly braced in her walker, she urged, “In Bobby’s memory, light the !#%^#@* out of that tree!”

Mickey Molnaire at the chamber immediately directed us to Katy Bigelow, resident and certified professional consulting arborist. She “works with those who live, work and design around trees.”

In what was becoming a difficult design challenge — 55-foot high tree, gnarly dense twisted branches, inaccessible to ladder, boom truck or allowing more than one person aloft — enter “Wonder Woman,” a graduate master of the art of tree climbing who knew of Bob and confidently and enthusiastically volunteered to place lights aloft.

Supporters provided strings of super-efficient, large LED lights. Cost to run them was negligible. City Manager Doug Schulze, assistant Kate Brown and Sonny Belieu at public works added support. The city park had no ready electricity. Haugan and Stan Warner, EPA site supervisor, aided electrical planning.

State and Federal officials raced the impending Thanksgiving holiday to determine physical and legal requirements to plug an extension cord into their wall socket for use in the neighboring park. It was the state Department of Ecology’s meter: They solved the puzzle. However their outlet use could only start after Thanksgiving weekend.

To provide power for the weekend, another bright, professional electrician, Mark Laucks of Sunrise Drive, volunteered high-capacity cell tower batteries. Thus, miraculously, thanks to everyone, especially Bigelow, we called Denise to do the honors as ferries passed in Thanksgiving eve’s sunset. Alas, she wasn’t home. So, we tried Bob’s cell.

Bob’s voice answered, “I’m not in my truck, or my phone is not with me, or I am up in a tree or otherwise engaged. As soon as I get to a phone, I will call you right back!”

We left him a message: “We love you, Bob!”



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