The last thing Mary Standefer expected when she woke up the morning of Nov. 30 was to see an empty front yard when she looked outside.
Once the location of a 30-year-old Colorado short-needled pine tree, her front yard is now a barren landscape.
“This year, I had decided to put multi-colored twinkle lights on it. I was going to decorate it the next day,” Standefer said. “I looked out the window at about 11 p.m. and thought, ‘you’re going to look like a little light shining on the hill.’ Then the next morning, I went out to check for my paper and it was gone.”
According to Standefer and her daughter, Brenda Brady, it may have just been a tree to the culprit who cut it down. But to their family it was so much more.
“It was in the early 80s when my dad gave me the tree and at that time, it was just a short switch with a few needles on it,” Standefer said. “My dad said to me, ‘Mary, if you are still here in 50 years, you may want to decorate this for Christmas.’ ”
Standefer said her dad was the comedian of the family and the small tree being decorated for Christmas was a running joke with her decorating “the twig” with red bows the first Christmas she had it.
“My dad had a good laugh when he saw it,” Standefer said. “It began growing and growing and people began to call me ‘Mary and the Beanstalk.’ ”
Standefer said she planted the tree in her front yard and her father died just three years after giving it to her.
“My mom was really close to Papaw,” Brady said. “She babied that tree. Anytime I’d go to water the yard in the summer, she’d say, ‘Now don’t forget to water my tree.’ It really hurt her when they chopped it down.”
Standefer said her care for the tree went as far as pouring liquid vitamins for people on it to help it grow.
“Through the years, with tender loving care, it became a perfectly shaped 6 or 7-foot pine tree,” she said.
Standefer said she filed a police report on the stolen tree, but she has no clues as to who could have taken it.
“Something that started out as just a beautiful present from my dad has had such a sad ending,” Standefer said. “Maybe it’s bringing somebody some joy. I like to think it’s in a house with some children in it.”
Standefer and Brady said family members are joined by longtime neighbors in being outraged by the theft.
“It wasn’t just a tree. When they cut down that tree, I feel like they took a small part of her heart,” Brady said of her mother. “They could have cut down a tree on the other side of the yard and she probably wouldn’t have cared but they took that one.”