A Freedom Tree Grows Again in Coeur d'Alene

Nov 10, 2014

Veterans Day ceremonies  in Coeur d'Alene will include dedication of a new Freedom Tree in the city's re-modeled McEuen Park. The city's original Freedom Tree, a graceful 65-foot Norway spruce, was felled last year because it was smack in the way of new construction for the McEuen Park makeover.

Ironically, the spruce had been planted in the first place to block proposed improvements - in that case, an extension of 4th Street toward Tubbs Hill and development of a new shopping mall.

In 1972, however, it became the Freedom Tree after a Coeur d'Alene Air Force pilot, Fred McMurray, was shot down over Vietnam and captured. The tree became an ad hoc living memorial with yellow ribbons, dog tags and military medals on its branches, and then a rallying point for celebration in 1973 when McMurray came home,

Destruction of the tree touched off emotional community outcries, but city planners tried to soften the blow by giving some of the wood to the McMurry family and by letting foresters take about 50 cuttings for new starts.

Some of the wood was even used by a couple of Sandpoint guitar makers - brothers Tony and Dave Powell - to build unusual instruments called harp guitars. They call their new creations Freedom Harps.

The new Freedom Tree, a young, 16-foot tall spruce, was planted near the park's Veterans Memorial. It'll be formally dedicated Tuesday in ceremonies marking Veterans Day.