Family grateful after stranger saves memorial


An Ottawa family says it is overwhelmed with gratitude after a stranger saved a roadside memorial to a loved one that was on a tree slated for removal.

That tree, known to the family as “Stef’s tree,” bore a memorial on its trunk to Stefan Trynda, a 19-year-old man who died after crashing into it in 2001.

After standing along a road in Ottawa’s south end for years, the ash tree recently fell victim to the destructive emerald ash borer beetle and died.

A few weeks ago the City of Ottawa dispatched Blake Murray and his crew to cut down seven ash trees in the south end, with “Stef’s tree” among them.

When Murray arrived, he saw one of the trees had a white cross nailed to it. He knew it was important, he said, but not to whom.

“We figured we’d better save it,” Murray said in an interview.

So Murray and his team cut down only the top portion of the tree, above the white cross. One of his co-workers then suggested adding to the memorial, so Murray used his chainsaw to carve a second cross onto the top of the tree trunk.

“It felt nice to do something nice,” Murray said.

News of his good deed spread on Facebook, eventually reaching Trynda’s sister.

“It is beautiful,” an emotional Anne-Marie Trynda-Greaney said of Murray’s gesture.

“It’s such a kind thing to do. You don’t often hear about kindness like that, you only really hear about the horrible things these days.”

Trynda had been about 10 minutes away from home in February 2001 when he hit black ice, lost control of his car and hit the tree which nearly got cut down entirely, his sister said.

“That tree has become a memorial for my family and friends,” she said. “At the time there were flowers and all sorts of things there, but over time that is gone and just a cross remains.”

Trynda was destined for great things, his sister said, describing her brother as an exceptional violinist who was studying biochemistry at the University of Ottawa.

Trynda’s parents find it too difficult to speak about their son publicly, and continue to struggle with their loss, Trynda-Greaney said. But they have been overwhelmed by Murray’s gesture, she said.

The tree has given them a sense of peace, she said, a physical reminder of their son’s spirit.

“Losing their boy pains them every single day, but they drive by that tree almost daily and will sometimes visit it,” she said. “Even though we’d never forget Stef, it’s nice to know the tree still stands, like it won’t forget him.”


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