By Chris StoneBoth had stood for more than a half a century, tall sentries in sacred areas — a Point Loma church and military cemetery.
Yet both succumbed to fierce winds Sunday night, and their absences will be noticed.
Their fates were discovered at daybreak, with the relief that no one was hurt in their falls.
The first was a 40- to 50–foot-tall Torrey pine that gave shade to grave sites at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Its 4- to 5-foot-diameter trunk was a testament to its longevity.Fifteen graves were affected, but only two were exposed — an urn as well as a casket vault. Families of the disturbed graves will be notified, but the cost of the repairs will be born by the cemetery, said Michael Munnerlyn, assistant director of Fort Rosecrans.
Workers at the site were struck by the fact that the heavy branches fell between the headstones, avoiding damage to the markers. A worker said the tree may have been the oldest at the cemetery.
“It is our highest priority to have the graves restored with respect,” Munnerlyn said.
It will be several days before the tree can be completely removed and the damage assessed, he said. Mostly the sod was lifted in the tree fall.
Munnerlyn lives at the cemetery and spoke of the fierce winds that blew for 24 straight hours.
Two and half miles up Cabrillo Memorial Drive, the folks at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Talbot Street also received less-than-worst-scenario news.
Although he doesn’t claim divine intervention, the Rev. Dr. Tony Wolfe counts his blessings. But he will heed possible future dangers.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Wolfe said. If the trees had made their descent in another direction, “the church would have been demolished.”A church employee called the pastor at 7 a.m., saying, “You’re not going to believe what happened.”
The estimated 100-foot eucalyptus tree fell on the street and struck a hedge on the other side of the street, breaking a faucet and sending water shooting into the air. It also took down an adjacent tree.
Wolfe called to report the water spouting, and tree crews worked about seven hours cutting up the tree and clearing the road.
But the trees will be missed.
“They were like sculptures in front of the church, so beautiful,” Wolfe said. “There was a hawk nest over there.”
But not wanting to throw caution to the wind, the pastor said he would meet with church members this week to talk about the fate of the two remaining eucalyptus trees in front of the church.
“I hate to do it,” Wolfe said, “but this a good sign that we may need to take the others down, too.”
Franklin “Bud” Held of Del Mar, who was pastor at the same Point Loma church for 11 years starting in the late 1950s, said the trees were there when he started — “pretty big at the time.”
“They looked beautiful,” said Held, an Olympian who set two world records in the javelin after competing for Stanford.
Held suspects the trees were 70-80 years old, but agreed with Wolfe that the others should be considered for downing — heeding what forecasters had said about subsequent storms softening ground for future falls.
“That might be a wise idea,” Held said.
Ken Stone contributed to this report.
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