Windstorm-toppled tree decked out in Christmas lights for the final time

A strange glow emanates near downtown Everett, lurching from the ground like a giant sci-fi dragon that got tangled in holiday lights.

What’s up with that?

What was once a majestic 100-foot-tall Japanese black pine is now a funky, festive tree trunk.

The tree stood tall and wide for more than 50 years until the Nov. 17 windstorm, which wrecked havoc across Western Washington, ripped its roots and splattered it across the 3000 block of Grand Avenue.

The tree’s owners, Stuart and April Cole, were lucky, really. Their power stayed on and their tree didn’t inflict any damage below.

Still, the loss hit home.

“It was a neighborhood tree,” Stuart said.

Over the years, he’d decorated it with scary figures at Halloween and festooned it with lights at Christmas. It was a lot of work, and Stuart scaling the mighty tree made April nervous, even though he’s a siding worker who climbs ladders for a living.

His electrifying excess paid off. It was an award-winning tree.

“The neighborhood association gave him the Griswold Award a few years ago,” April said.

After that, though, he’d stopped lighting up the tree.

“I didn’t have the gumption,” said Stuart, 55. “We had a lot of things going on in our family. I didn’t even want to do Christmas.”

The storm might have taken his tree, but it gave him his gumption back. The disfigured trunk was an inspiration. He swirled it with bright colorful lights and turned the tragedy into a comedy.

It made him, and others, happy.

“People honk and wave,” he said. “They’re happy to see it lit up again.”

His face lights up when he talks about its redemption.

“It’s like a tribute to the tree that was,” April said. “We have a lot of cars stopping. They try to figure out what it is. It is very odd.”

The massive above-ground root sculpture adds a quirky touch.

That pronged corncob thing jutting out from the top? It’s dinner. “For the crows and squirrels and bluejays,” Stuart said.

The tree was a healthy specimen that shed 10 garbage bags of pine needles and cones every year. Neighborhood kids would have cone wars with the remnants.

“I loved the tree ever since we bought the house,” said April, 53, who works at Boeing.

The Coles were living in Kirkland when they happened by the Grand Avenue home 16 years ago.

“We were just driving by. They were having an open house,” Stuart said. “It had everything we wanted. A view of the mountains and the city. A big porch my wife wanted. A basement and a detached garage on an alley. We said, ‘Kick everybody out. We’re buying it’. ”

From researching old photos, they learned that the tree was planted in the early 1960s. Stuart counted 42 rings in the trunk after it fell that fateful day in November.

“The tree went down about 4 o’clock,” Stuart said.

“I was in Redmond working out in that storm. I came home. It was laying all across Grand Avenue.”

He took hundreds of photos as municipal workers spent hours clearing the debris from the road the next day.

“They were cutting and cutting and cutting,” he said.

The grande finale was a long and laborious cut on the giant trunk that lay flat on the ground.

“The whole thing rose up,” Stuart said. “As soon as I saw it rise up like that I knew right then I was going to light it up.”

He’ll keep the trunk lit until after Seahawks season.

Then, the tree of Christmases past will be a happy memory … well, at least, until he gets the bill.

It will cost about $2,000 to remove it.

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