By LENORE RUTHERFORD
Planted many years ago to honor World War I veterans, the 60-foot-tall blue atlas cedar behind Sonora Veterans Hall came down Wednesday.
The tree was removed to make way for an elevator and handicapped parking spaces being added to the hall to make it more accessible to the handicapped.
A plaque honoring World War I veterans that was under the tree has been moved to the front of the building at 9 N. Washington St., said Howard Hutchinson, a World War II veteran and member of the Tuolumne County Veterans Committee.
Hutchinson said he believes the tree was planted in 1934, the year after the veterans hall was built.
The trunk has 53 rings, said Dave Alley of Dave Alley Tree Service, who felled the tree. The number of rings seen on the surface of the freshly cut trunk is a general indicator of its age, he said, with one ring for each year.
However, he added, trees can be several years older than the number of rings indicate.
The tree was felled a small piece at a time to prevent any of it from falling onto the street or nearby buildings. Alley said it took about six hours to fell the tree, and he planned to return today to remove the stump.
The wood was to be removed and given to the needy by people sentenced to perform community service through the Tuolumne County Probation Department, according to Alley.
Hutchinson, a regular at the veterans hall since the 1950s, watched most of the process and documented the event with his camera until about 1:30 p.m., when he fell and injured his knee. He was listed in fair condition this morning at Sonora Community Hospital.
"The tree had to come down to make way for handicapped parking," he said Wednesday. "I'm sure we will plant more trees to replace it."
Hutchinson said a slab from the trunk will be preserved and put on display in the hall.