Retired RI firefighter wins Christmas tree contest
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence has selected this year’s City Hall Christmas tree from the yard of a longtime city firefighter who lives just three miles across town.
The city earlier this month put out a call for nominations for what it called the perfect tree, and offered to come cut down any one deemed big and beautiful enough to impress the public, once it was bedecked with lights and ornaments.
The winner, selected this week from among 15 submissions, is a Colorado blue spruce that stands about 35 feet tall. It belongs to Robert Mink, an 82-year-old retired firefighter who worked for the department for more than 30 years, and his wife, Marie, of the Silver Lake neighborhood.
The tree is scheduled to make the short journey from the Minks’ yard to City Hall on Monday on a flatbed truck after being cut down by a local tree company that is donating its services.
David Ortiz, a spokesman for Mayor Angel Taveras, said the tree was selected after an inspection by the city parks department based on its height, fullness and one very practical consideration: ‘‘crane access points.’’
Not all of the tree nominations were seriously considered.
‘‘A handful of them were kind of eliminated just based on the photo,’’ Ortiz said. ‘‘We got some Charlie Brown tree submissions.’’
The city has used donated evergreens for its Christmas tree before, but this was the first year it sought nominations.
The Minks’ daughter, Robin Okolowitcz, urged her parents to donate the spruce because it had gotten too big and was encroaching on the driveway, forcing them to cut back the lower limbs. She estimates her father planted it about 45 years ago; she and her sisters grew up with it.
‘‘It’s beautiful,’’ she said. ‘‘I think it’s just nice that my parents donated the Christmas tree in the city they've lived their whole lives and the city that my dad worked his whole career.’’
There’s something of an irony in the tree’s donation, the way Okolowitcz tells it. Her father, who used to sell Christmas trees out of the yard, always seemed to pick a sad one to serve as the family tree.
‘‘My dad is a believer in the Charlie Brown Christmas tree,’’ she said. ‘‘He used to always say, ‘When it’s all decorated and the lights are on it and it’s your tree, it’s beautiful.'’’
She said her parents are delighted their tree was selected. When she told her father, she explained, he offered up another tree on their property for the Statehouse — though that tree is already in place.
The Minks’ whole family, grandchildren included, is expected to be at the tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 1. They'll get to take a picture with Taveras, part of the deal of having the winning tree.
‘‘We’re hoping to make it our family Christmas card,’’ she said.