Family aghast after young cancer victim's memorial tree cut off

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MT. MORRIS TOWNSHIP (WJRT) (12/3/2018) - "For the life of me I can't see why they would do that. I don't know," Dad Christopher Orr said.

For more than 20 years, a pine tree has stood in front of the old Buell Elementary in Mt. Morris Township. It's marked with a plaque dedicated to his son, Christopher Orr, II.

Orr said the tree used to sit about 15 feet tall. Until, they believe, someone took a saw to it.

The father explained his son's mother drove by the tree, as she often does, on Saturday; and, she noticed the whole top half was missing.

"I'm not angry," Orr said. "I'm sad; and, I wish it wouldn't have happened. But, they didn't kill it, they didn't cut it down. So, in my life for what I've been through, I'm thankful for what was there. Not for what I think should be there."

The pine tree wasn't much taller than it is now, when it was dedicated to Chris Orr II in 1998. The first grade class at Buell Elementary planted the 'Tree of Bravery' with him, honoring Chris's year-and-a half long battle with brain cancer.

"He was physically there. He physically threw dirt in the hole. So, when we go there, we're with him. I guess. He's there with us," Orr said.

It's a day Orr remembers so clearly, the first day he said his son smiled in a long time.

"It made him happy during a really bad time of our lives," he explained. "That was what it was all about man, just seeing him smile because he had a lot of bad days."

And, when the 7-year-old passed away just months later, the tree became the spot Orr has felt closest to him.

"It's been a place for me to connect with him, I guess, in a way. I've slept there. I've cried there. I've laughed there. We've had family dinners there," he explained.

Orr promised they'll continue to cherish the tree. He's working now to figure out how to help it continue to grow.

"It just won't be as tall, but it's strong and that's what this is all about," he said.

Orr isn't mad at whoever cut the top half off because he said his son wouldn't want him to be. Instead, he's hopeful it has become a Christmas tree for a family who needed it.

"I hope so. I do. 'Cause I'd hate to think they did it just to be mean. I hope some kids are around it, opening some presents that come out from behind it. So my son can be there opening with them," he said.

The lot is now up for sale. Orr said he's hopeful they'll be able to move his son's tree if the new owners don't want it on their property.

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