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Perfect tree to be Christmas tribute to grandson's memory

October 03, 2007|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

HAGERSTOWN ? Roger Finn already knows what he wants for Christmas.

Finn, who with his son, Randy, owns Antietam Tree and Turf, is on the lookout for a 25- to 30-foot-tall Norway, blue spruce or fir tree. They want to erect it in front of Washington County Hospital for the Christmas season.

Finn, 65, has done this for about 15 years.

The past few years, he has donated his work in memory of his grandson, Henry Atwell Finn. Henry, who was Randy's son, was 16 months old when he died of sudden infant death syndrome on Dec. 1, 2003.

"He was my first grandson. Now, I have a little granddaughter, who we really adore. But he was, too. He was my pride and joy," Finn said.

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Donating, erecting and helping to string lights on the tree is the family's way of spreading that joy to others.

"And the money we would have charged the hospital, the auxiliary just puts it toward their Tree of Lights fundraiser," through which equipment is bought for the hospital system, Finn said.

Sue Fiedler, a volunteer and former president of the auxiliary, said the Finns' generosity is appreciated. "They're wonderful people," she said.

The auxiliary sells lights on the tree in memory or in honor of loved ones, Fieldler said. Thus far, she said, it has raised $381,000 since the project began 22 years ago.

Finn, whose company is based in Hagerstown at 405 N. Burhans Blvd., said he has bought two newspaper advertisements so far, looking for this year's perfect tree.

"We're always looking for the perfect tree. We're really hoping for one that's 25, 30 feet and nice and full. We prefer a blue spruce because they seem to be thicker and fuller. But a fir would be good, too," he said.

"Everybody thinks they've got the perfect tree, but it's got a little hole here or is a little lopsided there."

So far, the tree has been found each year well clear of any last-minute rush. "Usually, it's in someone's backyard," Finn said.

The owner donates the tree and, in return, Antietam Tree and Turf removes it at no charge just after Thanksgiving.

Thus far, Finn said, he's looked over a few candidates for this Christmas but is still hoping for that right one. "If I have to," he said, he'll go any distance in the county for the right tree, "but I'd prefer it be close by because we've got to trailer it in" and street width can be a problem.

When a new hospital is built, Finn said he plans to end his annual search with a more permanent gift.

"We'd like to put a live tree in so they'd have it for years and years," he said.

If you think you've got the perfect tree, you can contact Roger Finn at Antietam Tree and Turf at 301-791-3500.

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