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Ancient tree falls but memories it evokes linger

JCE Tree Service employees work to chop down the large basswood tree that stood for more than 100 years next to “Winsome Hollow Farm” where Kim Way and Lin Gromer live. Before it was cut down, the tree shaded the entire house. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Kim Way (left) and Lin Gromer are shown with their dog Willow near the more than 100-year-old Basswood tree that was cut down near their rural River Falls home Friday, June 13. (River Falls Journal photo by Gretta Stark)2 / 2

Fancy, elaborate homes are not for Kim Way. What she wanted when she bought her house 24 years ago was a little piece of history -- and that’s exactly what she got.

Her house, dubbed “Winsome Hollow Farm” about two miles west of River Falls on Old County Highway M, was built by the Segerstrom family in the late 1800s.

And as that family grew, so did a basswood tree near the house.

By 2014, the tree had reached about 15 feet around and was well past 100 years old. That living piece of history was cut down Friday.

Way was sad but said it was time for the ancient tree to go. If the tree hadn’t been cut down, it might have fallen on her housemate Lin Gromer’s bedroom.

“It’s had a really good life,” Way said. “It’s hard to see it go. But it has to go. I don’t want anybody killed over it or the house damaged over it.”

“If a storm came and it fell on the house, I’d be dead if I was sleeping,” Gromer said.

The tree, which towered so high that even with their equipment stretched to his highest height, JCE Tree Service workers couldn’t reach the top, cast shade on the entire lawn.

But, as basswood trees tend to do, it had split down the middle and becoming hollow.

Two cinches have been holding the tree together for decades -- one was in place when Way moved in, another she added later.

A large storm was likely to send the tree or part of the tree crashing down on the house. And with two years full of heavy storms -- especially heavy winter storms -- Way and Gromer feared the tree would collapse on the house.

Way said she was very concerned because her roof is set to be redone soon.

JCE Tree Service removed the tree stump, and Way said she’ll reseed the lawn over it.

She does plan to plant another tree -- at least eight feet away from the house to comply with code -- one big enough to offer some shade in a few years.

Way, who bought the house -- and with it the tree -- in 1990, said she’ll miss the shade, but what she’ll miss most is that loving connection to history.

“I guess because of the memories of my grandparents living in an old home, and some of my aunt and uncles outside of Chicago lived in an older home out on a farm, and I remember just all the good times with them,” Way said. “For me the biggest thing was having some land, and some privacy just being able to be outside.”

For the complete story, please see the June 19 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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