Problem Solver: Giving thanks

As usual, readers step up to help others

Not long after I started this column more than seven years ago, I came to realize the folks who read it are among the best on Earth.

Whenever I failed to come through for a consumer — and often even when I succeeded — there was a small army of readers willing to pitch in and help, to fill the void left by an unresponsive company or a misguided customer service agent.

For them, I've served as a conduit of their kindness, forwarding cash, checks and other donations from generous readers who were touched by others' troubles. None of the gestures has made me tear up like the one from reader Marvin Angell earlier this year.

So as I write my annual Thanksgiving Day column, let me start by thanking Angell for his generous offer — of a tree.

His email, dated Aug. 31, arrived three days after I wrote about Bill Tortorello, whose 48-foot Norway spruce was mistakenly killed by DuPont's much-maligned herbicide Imprelis.

DuPont promised to reimburse Tortorello for the tree, but as Tortorello pointed out, it's not easy to replace a stately old tree.

Enter Angell, whose email to the What's Your Problem? carried the subject line "IMPORTANT!!!"

"When my youngest son was 5 years old we planted one of those foot-long twigs that the schools were giving away for Arbor Day," Angell wrote. "So we planted it near our garage and we didn't think much of that twig at the time, but we were wrong."

He said his son is now 25 and living in New Orleans. But the twig, a blue spruce, is now 30 feet tall.

"It's one of the most beautiful trees you have ever seen," Angell said.

For years, he said, he had considered remodeling his garage, but he hesitated because it would require cutting down the tree.

"If Mr. Tortorello would like, we would like to offer the tree to him," Angell wrote. "My wife and I would be happy to see the tree live on, to give (it) to someone that obviously loves trees as much as we do, and it then would not have to be cut down."

Maybe I'm a sucker for trees, but the offer, so genuine and sweet, brought tears to my eyes.

Tortorello was moved too. He called Angell, thanked him for the offer, but said he wanted to wait until the settlement with DuPont was hashed out before figuring out what to do next.

Tortorello said he's still waiting for DuPont to improve its offer for his dead tree.

Meanwhile, Angell's tree is still standing. He's put off the garage remodeling project for now.

Perhaps Tortorello can still use Angell's spruce.

"Maybe in the spring," Angell said.

That would certainly be nice.

Sticking with the arboreal theme, albeit in a slightly less sentimental way, a thank you also is in order for Tom Gorski's neighbor, who knocked on his door shortly after reading the Nov. 4 column about Gorski's trouble with a tree service.

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