Memorial tree growing strong in Phillips

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PHILLIPS — A new tree has arrived on Main Street. Here in rural Maine, that may not be anything new, but this one has a special purpose: it serves as a living memorial.

Last December, a Christmas tree was set up at 37 Main Street in Phillips, next to Morning Bridge Center. It was lit and decorated with homemade photo ornaments.

Like the M&T Memorial Basketball Court a few blocks away on Park Street, the tree was set up in memory of Michaela Morgan and Thomas Deckard-Madore, two Mount Abram High School students who were killed in a car crash in February 2021.

According to her mother, Tanya Morgan, Michaela had a special love of her family’s Christmas trees and loved decorating them every year.

Dr. Susy Sanders runs Morning Bridge Center and helps with a number of community resources and activities, including the beloved Wonderland event during the summer and the Little Free Pantry in Phillips. Sanders helped with arrangements for the Christmas tree and made ornament kits available at the public library for people to use.

Last year’s memorial tree. (Photo from Tanya Morgan)

The Christmas tree was originally intended for Michaela’s friends to decorate in her memory, but it quickly expanded to become a memorial for the whole community. Even people from out of state reached out to Sanders, requesting to mail in ornaments to decorate the tree. December wind and snow storms took a toll on the little tree, knocking it over several times, and in January a particularly bad storm resulted in the tree falling over and freezing into the ice. Sanders salvaged as many ornaments as she could and saved them to return to families or put up again the following year, and a plan was hatched to plant a permanent memorial tree in the same sport.

This spring McClure’s Tree Farm in Kingfield donated and planted a balsam fir tree, one of the traditional types of holiday tree. Sanders said that Adam Dyer, who owns McClure’s, would also help maintain the tree, and that it will be lit up and decorated every year for the holidays.

The memorial tree being planted by Adam Dyer. (Photo from Susy Sanders)

“It started as Mickey’s memorial tree and people just kept adding to it,” Tanya said.

Now, thanks to donated time, materials, and a whole lot of love, the memorial tree will be around for years to come.

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