Man donates holiday tree in dad's memory


NASHUA - The nearly 50-foot-high Norway spruce had long darkened the north side of Paul Anctil's modest Cape Cod-style home. But after an extraordinary cutting that involved a 100-foot-tall crane and a careful ride to downtown, the shapely tree will instead bring light to the city as it welcomes the holidays. On Tuesday morning, an efficient and relatively quiet crew of workers used all sorts of machinery to hoist the spruce over utility wires in Anctil's Woodcrest Drive neighborhood - just offWest Hollis Street - and then transported it slowly to its resting place at the Deschenes Oval on Railroad Square. It marked yet another successful journey of a resident's tree to a visible spot downtown - where residents and visitors can reflect on the meaning of Christmas and other upcoming holidays. For Anctil, though, the donation has extra meaning. The retired BAE Systems employee can bring his 96-year-old mother, Bertha Landry, to see the tree that his father and her husband, Albert Anctil, got in its infancy about 39 years ago. Albert Anctil had earned enough gift stamps from an old gas station on West Hollis Street and received four trees. He gave two to his daughter and the other two - then only 8 inches high - to his son Paul. Planted side by side, the trees grew so large that Paul Anctil cut one down five years after they were placed in the ground. The Norway spruce developed into a beauty. But with its wide reach and considerable height, it had choked sunlight from a side of Anctil's house, causing the growth of moss and mold. Anctil called the city. City officials didn't wait long to jump at the offer. The Parks and Recreation Department and Pioneer Tree Service went to work in the freezing cold of Tuesday morning. The public and private entities have teamed up for about 12 years now for the tree removal and transfer, with Pioneer donating its time and resources. The crane pulled into the driveway of Anctil's neighbors, Joel and Martha Ackerman. The driveway offered the only angle to reach the tree. The Pioneer father-and-son team of Herman and Spencer Stickney, measured distances and heights and coordinated with Parks and Recreation foreman Victor Delisle. "It's very Christmas tree looking," Anctil said as he recorded the mission with a camcorder. About a dozen neighbors watched from across the street as the crews slowly put everything into place before the highlight of the morning: 67-year-old Herman Stickney flying to the tree top. Stickney attached a hook to a belt around his waist and was hoisted by the crane. He placed a sling around the upper portion of the spruce and ultimately cut the trunk about 10 feet from its base, shortening it for its downtown showing. With Spencer Stickney working the crane controls, the tree slowly glided through the air, over 30-foot-high utility wires, and onto the back of a Department of Public Works trailer. Hand-fashioned wooden tree holders kept the tree in place as it was slowly lowered into a horizontal position. Workers trimmed the bottom, the trailer lifted from the ground, and soon it was a slow ride down West Hollis, Kinsley and Main streets before landing at Railroad Square. The city has a concrete tree base established there. It is five feet in diameter, and a pipe inside drops about 6 feet underground to hold the tree in place. The workers plopped the tree in without much delay, and now it sits ready for lighting at the annual Holiday Stroll on Nov. 29. For Paul Anctil and his wife, Tomiko, the tree seems like the perfect way to memorialize Albert Anctil, a former owner of Canal Street Market who died in 1972. "I hope this tree will provide the people of Nashua and the surrounding towns a symbol of the holiday spirit as they walk and drive down Main Street," Paul Anctil said.
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