EAST WENATCHEE — The snowfall early Friday morning turned Christine Millett’s yard into a winter wonderland. Trees of bright red, yellow and piney green were blanketed in white as Millett looked out from her covered balcony at a blue spruce tree that lined the left side of the driveway.
On the ground below, city of East Wenatchee and Columbia Crane workers were also eyeing the evergreen. A chainsaw lay at the trunk as a crew member tied rope around the treetop and attached the end to a crane. Engines revved, and the snow-covered spruce was lifted off the ground, slowly twirling in the air as the crew lowered it to the trailer bed.
“I’ve always thought that there were a couple of them that were the perfect Christmas tree shape,” said Millett. “It looks like a Christmas tree even without any lights or decorations on it.”
The 30-foot, 3,000-pound tree was transferred to East Wenatchee City Hall, 271 9th St. SE, where it will be decorated for the city’s official Christmas tree. The tree was donated to the city by Millett as a tribute to her husband, William “Bill” Millett, who passed away last December before the holiday. He planted over 90 trees at their East Wenatchee home since moving to the property in the late 1970s.
“He would have loved it — once he got past the shock,” said Millett.
The Milletts’ blue spruce beat out 25 other contenders, according to Events Director Trina Elmes. While there is no official tree lighting this year due to COVID-19, residents are encouraged to drive past and view the lights. Decorations will be hung early next week, Elmes said.
The property was initially a 10-acre apple and peach orchard. After working at the orchard for eight years, Bill Millett opened his appraisal business and began parcelling the land. At the same time, he started removing fruit trees to turn the orchard into his woodsy oasis.
“He wanted to live in the forest but he didn’t want to live that far away from civilization,” said Christine Millett. “So, he planted his forest around the house.”
During the course of the 50 years the couple lived in the home, Bill Millett would visit nurseries along the coast to find trees non-native to Eastern Washington. It was often trial and error as to if the trees would take to the soil.
“He used to pick the ones that looked the worst, but were normally the least expensive, and try to experiment,” Christine Millett said.
Over time, the Milletts had their own arboretum of evergreens, cedars, oaks, alders, pines and spruces. With the dry summer, the rhododendron trees didn’t fare so well. The red maples are Millett’s favorite this time of year, where the changing leaves turn a beautiful, emboldened red.
The Milletts’ personal forest has also attracted some furry friends.
“What’s been fascinating about providing this little ecosystem here is the number of animals,” Millett said.
Families of squirrels, quails, cooper hawks and kestrels have taken home in the Millett’s yard. There is also a large owl that visits from the mountains for the winter, according to Millett.
As the Milletts planted roots at their East Wenatchee home, their own family tree began to grow, too. Their daughter and two granddaughters, 8 and 10, plan to visit the decorated tree when they visit for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“My granddaughters can see grandpa’s tree,” Millett said.