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Rich's-Macy*s Christmas Tree Snaps

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From the ATLANTA J-C ajc.com

by Mae Gentry

Tannenbaum, poor Tannenbaum.

The 72-foot white pine that stood in Harold and Martha Dudley's Snellville yard for more than two decades was destined to be this year's Rich's-Macy's Great Tree.

"We were really elated and excited," said Harold Dudley, 82.

But disaster struck.

As the tree was being lifted from a flatbed truck Sunday morning, it snapped, dashing the Dudleys' spirits and sending scouts searching for a replacement among several backup possibilities.

"My heart's broken," Dudley said. The crew hoisting the tree and the half-dozen spectators knew immediately that something was wrong, said Marla Shavin, spokeswoman for Rich's-Macy's.

"It wasn't but a few feet above the ground when we heard the snap," she said. "It's one of those noises you never want to hear. It's up there with 'uh oh' in the operating room."

Shavin said the tree snapped once before, in the 1970s. She expects scouts to select a substitute soon.

"There will be a tree on the roof," she said. "We just have to pump up the timeline."

Dudley and his wife, who is 84, had planned to be at Lenox Square as the tree was mounted atop the roof of the Rich's-Macy's department store. But her arthritis was acting up, so they stayed home.

The annual lighting of the Great Tree, which takes place on Thanksgiving night and ushers in the holiday season, began 57 years ago at Rich's downtown store, now closed.

The event moved to Lenox Square four years ago. Each year, the department store chooses one family to provide its legendary Great Tree.

The Dudleys planted their tree as a seedling 25 years ago, decorated it each Christmas until it grew too big, and watched their grandchildren climb it.

After learning of Sunday's catastrophe, Dudley said, "a lump came in my stomach" and he became depressed.

"I know a human being, according to the Bible, lives three scores and 10," he said. "Martha and I are over four scores, and I don't know the life of a tree. I do know that [poet] Joyce Kilmer said, 'Only God can make a tree.' "

The Dudleys still plan to attend the lighting of the tree on Thanksgiving. They also plan to collect the pine cones scattered in their yard and turn them into a wreath.

"We didn't lose all of it, but we lost the purpose of the tree," Dudley said. "It was supposed to have been the Rich's Great Tree and its memory will always live with us."

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