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Port Lavaca Tree of Angels gives families a place to remember their loved ones

By BY DIANNA WRAY - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Dec. 2, 2011 at 6:02 a.m.


IF YOU GO

WHAT: Tree of Angels Ceremony

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: Bauer Community Center, 2300 state Highway 35, Port Lavaca.

FOR MORE INFO: Call Mary Sue Woods at 361-552-2091 or 361-550-7481 for more information or to arrange to have the victim of a violent crime honored. Participants may bring an angel ornament to hang on the tree in memory of a victim of violent crime.

Christmas is always a hard time for Mary Sue Woods. Ten years ago, Woods' son, Jeffrey Woods, was murdered, the victim of a stabbing in April 1999.

The first Christmas after his death was awful, Woods said.

The next year she decided to do something about it, to find a way to make sure people remembered her son and other victims of violent crime.

This year, the family and friends of 149 victims of violent crime will gather to remember them. An angel will be placed on the tree in honor of each victim and a candle will be lit. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Tree of Angels ceremony.

People gathered to honor 37 victims in 2001, Woods said. Over the years the ceremony has grown. This year about 400 people are expected to gather in the Bauer Community Center in Port Lavaca to honor their loved ones who were victims of violent crimes. They are set to honor 149 people this year.

Calhoun Sheriff B.B. Browning, Victoria Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor, Victoria Police Chief JJ Craig, Interim Port Lavaca Police Chief Brandon Riedel, Seadrift Police Chief Francisco Servantes, Edna Police Chief Clinton Wooldridge, Calhoun District Attorney Dan Heard, the Victoria District Attorney Steve Tyler will participate in the ceremony.

Woods and her husband, John Woods, work from the end of September each year to put the event together. Woods said she feels it is worth it when she sees the people who have come back year after year to honor their loved ones.

"After Jeffrey died I didn't want anyone to forget him. I wanted to give his son a place to go to honor his dad," Woods said.

Woods said it is good to have a place to go during the holiday season where everyone can stop and remember their loved ones together.

"You can't really describe it. It's just something you have to go and feel. You have to know that everyone there understands and knows what it's like to lose somebody," she said.

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