Oh OB Tree, Oh OB Tree, You’ll Live Forever in Donor Family’s Memories

by on December 1, 2021 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

OB has a special place in the heart of Ken Stone, the main guy behind the online news site Times of San Diego. Here’s his report of the cutting down and installation of OB’s 2021 Christmas Tree. For some great photos of the event, check out his post.

By Ken Stone / Times of San Diego / November 30, 2021

Recording the scene with her phone, Catrina Russell looked forlorn. Part of her family history was dying.

But as Randy Bates of NatureScape used a chainsaw to separate a dramatically leaning tree from its Ocean Beach stump Tuesday, Russell knew it was for the good.

“It’s kind of ironic because I’m helping in the fight to save our palm trees. And here I am, cutting down this tree,” said Russell, wearing jeans and sandals. “But I think it’s clear this tree is a danger. It’s pulling up the sidewalk. It’s growing over our neighbor’s house.

“It has to come out anyway.”

Out but not yet down.

After runner-up status for four or five years, the Long Branch Avenue conifer was finally chosen as the OB Christmas tree, taking its place at the sandy nexus of Abbott Street and Newport Avenue. The OB Town Council pays for the project the week before the annual holiday parade.

Real-estate agent Russell and her husband, Jason Dukes, a general contractor, had lived in the single-story home from 1999 to 2007 after a friend of hers since seventh grade had rented there and planted a sapling in front.

“She’s the reason I moved to Ocean Beach,” Russell said of the friend. “She and her roommate planted” the tree, only a couple of feet tall.

Years later, she and Dukes bought the house. “Got married. Had kids,” she said. Two teen boys. In an annual tradition, she’d decorate the tree, and surround it with lights “without a ladder.”

But after seeing it grow at a scary tilt, well over a fence that wasn’t removed until Monday, “we knew it needed to go,” Russell said.

A saving grace: “It’s very crooked… And it is a perfect OB tree. … Everybody … thinks it’s the coolest thing ever — that it’s going to be the OB Christmas tree.”

Leaning far left (as seen from the street), the 40-foot tree was lowered into its final, temporary beach manhole home about an hour after it was cut down.

Nikki Cory has been renting the Russell home since September. A nurse at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Cory shares the house with a teacher friend. “It’s super special. It’s out first year living in OB, and it’s really cool to see this,” she said. “Such an important thing that happens in OB to be a part of our home.”

Cory, a Maryland native, says the house will feel empty without the front-yard sentry — probably a star pine (also known as Norfolk Island pine, Polynesian pine or triangle tree). “But it’ll be cool to see it in front of the beach all decorated,” she said. “It’s such a funky tree. I love it.”

Said Russell: “Hopefully, it’s the most crooked OB tree ever.”

Larry Thayer of Hawthorne Cat, who’s been part of the OB tree project for years, is used to OB yule trees being radically bent.

But referring to tipsy patrons of Newport bars, he said: “It’ll look straight at midnight.”


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie December 1, 2021 at 10:43 am

Not everyone in OB thinks the community should have a local live tree cut down and used. Last year, we ran a rant about the tree cut down in 2020. https://obrag.org/2020/12/christmas-tree-rant/


Jon December 3, 2021 at 8:53 am

I’m absolutely shocked that rant came from Geoff Page.


Geoff Page December 3, 2021 at 11:30 am

Really, Jon? Don’t you know I’m the Tree Man?


Frank Gormlie December 3, 2021 at 1:04 pm

Jon, as usual, had tongue in cheek.


Geoff Page December 3, 2021 at 1:10 pm

So did I.


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