'More than just a tree:' The miracle behind this year's Tennessee Capitol Christmas tree

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Posted at 4:24 PM, Dec 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-22 20:57:32-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you ask Joe Barry, it's nothing special.

"It’s just a tree," said Joe. "In the way now, just too much over the sidewalk."

He feels like the sprawling spruce that's fulfilled its use, but now it's time to go.

"I’d just like some of my front yard back so I can see the house," he said with a laugh.

But for his wife Suzie, after seeing the tree every day in their front yard for 20 years, it's hard to say goodbye.

"The ability to identify our house by the fact it’s the house with the Christmas tree in the front yard," said Suzie. "It’s just been beautiful, and it’s been beautiful to decorate each year."

They may disagree on calling it special, but there's no denying that removing something this substantial is quite the spectacle.

"The street’s not wide enough for all this equipment," said Joe.

It took a lot of manpower, safety cables, two cranes and one loud chainsaw for the Barrys longtime tree to quite literally take flight.

"Alrighty little guy, thank you for all that you’ve given us. Thank you for the joy and beautiful memories," Suzie said to the tree, as crews hoisted the tree high over their tree line and down onto a massive trailer.

"I just never imagined anything like this," added Joe.

Crews took care to make sure not a single branch was bent, in part, because of the reason this tree was planted in the first place.

"We wanted to keep it as a memory of her," said Joe.

Decades ago, Joe and Suzie struggled with fertility and thought they'd never have a child until they got their own Christmas miracle.

"There she is, there’s Sarah. She was born on December the 28th," said Suzie. "She was just a gift. We waited for nine years for this little pumpkin to come."

So to celebrate Sarah's first Christmas in 2002, they didn't just buy any ordinary tree. They found one with the roots still intact.

"It was for her, as a little girl, the only child we could have," said Joe.

The Barrys liked the idea of an intact root ball so that even after the holiday season came to a close, the tree could continue to grow, just like Sarah.

Little Sarah is now nearly a college graduate, and while she couldn't be there when the tree was cut, she wouldn't dare miss seeing where their special tree ended up.

"Oh my gosh, it looks . . . that’s the tree!' said Sarah Barry, who stopped home during her Thanksgiving Break. "I never imagined growing up with the tree in our front yard, that it would be here and the state tree."

Sarah Barry's tree, which was planted in her honor, now proudly serves as the Tennessee State Capitol tree.

"We shall come back and see when you’re all dressed up in your finery," said Suzie.

Of course, when you've donated the official Capitol tree, there's a lot more ceremony than just flipping a switch. There are photos to be taken and songs to be sung. "Are y'all the?" asked Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

"We’re the tree people," interjected Joe Barry.

"Awesome!" Lee replied, meeting the Barry's in his office at the Capitol.

All of it lead up to the countdown 20 years in the making, as Tennesseans gathered on the steps of the Capitol to officially light the tree. When the white lights and red ornaments started glowing in the night sky, the Barrys were in awe.

"Whoa-oh-oh. Oh my goodness. Oh oh oh, isn’t that just beautiful," said Suzie.

"That is amazing, I wish I could have had that many lights when I had it up," said Joe.

When Joe and Suzie felt enveloped in darkness, their daughter Sarah became their light, and this tree, a towering reminder of their love.

"We have just loved watching her grow, and we’re so very thankful for her, and that’s what I want her to know," said Suzie. "I might just have to stand here all night and look at it,"

Seeing lit up like this, even Joe can admit it's so much more than just a tree.

"No, not anymore. Not anymore. With the star on top and all the lights, now they’re flashing. I just love Christmas trees, and I love Christmas so it just makes it so much better," he said.

"Thank you Sarah B, yay! Are you ready for the next tree we’re going to plant?" said Suzie with a laugh.

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