Crystal Falls landmark cut down, but residents determined to bring it back

Old tree held special meaning, became community tradition

Renée Ragnitz and Claude Breault began decorating this tree near the corner of Hwy 64 and Crystal Falls Rd. two years ago, not knowing the emotional history behind it. The popular Crystal Falls landmark was mysteriously chopped down and removed in the middle of the night earlier this month, causing anguish and anger among locals.

Community members in Crystal Falls are outraged after a memorial tree at the juncture of Highway 64 and Crystal Falls Road was cut down and removed out of the blue. 

The act of malfeasance occurred sometime between March 2 and 3. Although the exact time of the occurrence cannot be pinpointed, Renée Ragnitz of Crystal Falls says her husband, Claude Breault, and son, Alexander Ragnitz, noticed the tree was gone when they drove past at 9:30 on Thursday morning, March 3. The family was both angered and devastated, and Ragnitz posted the finding on her social media. The post quickly garnered commiserating voices of outrage from throughout her community. 

Ragnitz explains that the tree, which was adorned with Christmas decorations, was not only a well known and loved marker for the residents of the area who enjoyed its cheerful welcome, it also had a deep emotional significance for a local family. The Breault-Ragnitz family recently took up the decorating tradition themselves, but were just recently made aware of the tree’s history and meaning.

“Everybody enjoyed it; nobody knew until now. [There’s] a bit of history here. Living in Crystal Falls a long time, we had noticed driving by, this old, old garland on the inside of the tree, and no other trees like that in that area. It sticks out. My son said, ‘Oh look at this tree. Someone decorated it at some time’. He said at one point ‘I’d like to do the same’, but we never did. Two years ago, we said, okay, let’s decorate this tree.” The family bought ornaments and proceeded. Ragnitz says she knew nothing about the tree’s history but thought it was a ‘cool’ idea to decorate it with her family. “As we were decorating it, people were honking driving by. This couple stopped, Carol Andrews. She pulled over and she asked, ‘Do you know the history of this tree?’ and she told me. And then she wrote it; she sent me a Christmas card with the entire story.”

Ragnitz pulls out the Christmas card she received from Carol Andrews, which reads as follows: “On August 22nd 1990 Stub Anderson stopped in to see Evelyn (his wife) and asked if she needed anything from town. He was driving his jeep. On return, he pulled off Hwy 64 onto the Crystal Falls Road. He only went about 100 yards, pulled over and died. His daughter Joyce and I, childhood friends, decided to plant a tree from my property at the northeast corner of Tomiko Lake where Stub had played as a boy. His mother ran a half-way house on the property at the time for the loggers logging the bush behind. There were two log chutes and an alligator boat which dragged the logs across the lake to the Tomiko River. These logs were floated to the Sturgeon River and then down to Sturgeon Falls – all pre-dam era. So, the little tree was planted. Couldn’t have had much brush around it. Some Christmases it got decorated. Sometimes it didn’t. It has survived being sprayed by hydro, and then the skidoo trail went behind it. I kept trying to hang tinsel on it so no-one would chop it down. And a miracle happened this Christmas. The owners of Pine Ridge Lodge came to the rescue. The tree is decorated absolutely beautiful. Thank you! And God Bless. And God bless you Stub, always in our hearts. Carol Andrews.”

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