Time to Say 'Goodbye' to the FHN Holiday Community Tree
... and 'Hello' to a New One!

The tall blue spruce on the northside of FHN Memorial Hospital has been the community’s holiday tree since 2003, lending its imposing height and sweeping branches to the spirit of the season. Literally thousands have attended annual tree lightings over the years or enjoyed its beauty when driving by on Stephenson Street during the holidays. It must be replaced this year, though, due to a fatal disease that has been slowly killing it for almost 10 years despite many arborist treatments to try to cure it. Unlike the emerald ash borer insect infestation which decimated most ash trees in the area a few years ago, the infection for blue spruces like this one is caused by a fungus that can be highly contagious to trees and has no effective cure.

“It’s basically a type of untreatable ‘tree cancer,’” said Mike Kuropas, FHN Director of Facilities. “Take a look around town next time you’re out and about and you’ll see that many other blue spruces have been similarly infected.”

Click on the photo above to view historical photos of the
FHN Community Tree

The existing tree was planted in 1976, following the completion of the East Wing of FHN Memorial Hospital. A quick trip through the archives yielded some great photos of the tree – and the hospital – in its early days. When the tree is removed on Monday, October 11, a large segment of its trunk will be saved to create a commemorative plaque, honoring the tree’s many years of service as the holiday tree, that will be prominently placed at the hospital. The rings in the trunk will also be counted at that time to confirm that we have correctly determined its age. There are also plans to create items from the wood that will be offered in the silent auction for this year’s FHN Festival of Trees Holiday Gala.

Fortunately for all holiday tree lovers, FHN will soon have a new tree for everyone to enjoy! Dr. Michael and Sue Perry have generously offered to purchase a big, new tree which will be coming soon. Dr. Perry, previous FHN President and CEO who now provides primary care at the FHN Community Healthcare Center at the Stephenson County Health Department, has been a big supporter of all of FHN’s Festival of Trees events for many years and is ensuring that FHN continues the tradition of lighting up the holidays with bright festivity.

The new tree was planted Wednesday, October 27. This short video walks you through the planting process.

Current FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley expressed his appreciation for this gift from the Perrys, saying that the FHN Festival of Trees events are also an annual highlight for him. “We look forward to continuing to host holiday tree lightings long into the future,” said Gridley. “Of all the Festival of Trees activities, the annual tree lighting is my favorite. It signals the beginning of the holiday season, and the opportunity to celebrate a sense of community in sharing songs and treats and then counting down in unison to the lighting up the tree is a special part of FHN’s history that I really love.”

This year's tree lighting was held Sunday, November 21.
Watch a short clip of the Highland Youth Choir singing under the beautifully lit new tree.

Thank you to everyone who joined us as we kicked off the holiday season by lighting the new FHN Community Holiday Tree!