Tree saved by 91-year-old widow designated a heritage landmark

SAN DIEGO -- A 91-year-old widow is celebrating a victory after fighting to save a beloved tree from being cut down by city workers.

Allied Gardens resident Marie Ostwald’s late husband had planted the 57-year-old Brazilian Pepper Tree for her.

But in May, the tree’s roots were starting to come up beneath the sidewalk on Mission Gorge Road. Ostwald called the City of San Diego to get it fixed, but once they did the work, a city arborist told Ostwald it had to go.

So, along with a few supporters, the widow threatened to tie herself to the tree in order to stop crews from cutting it down.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer showed up and halted the tree’s removal.

“How do we keep not only this great tree here, but how do we make sure it’s safe? We’re going to be doing that and I’m confident we’ll be able to achieve that objective,” the mayor said.

She received a letter from the City of San Diego designating the tree a San Diego Heritage Landmark.

“I’m really happy, really, really happy,” Marie Ostwald said. “All I wanted was the sidewalk to be flat, and then all this commotion.”

This designation comes at a good time. Wednesday was Ostwald’s late husband’s birthday.

“I just, I know he’s looking down and saying, ‘good for you,”' said the widow.

She says with her tree now a landmark, she’s grateful it will remain along with her precious memories. She says she’s living proof that no matter who or how old you are, you can go up against the big guys and win.

“Just really happy, but I’m sorry I caused the city so much trouble too,” Ostwald said.

The City Planning Department, the City Arborist, Transportation, Storm Water and the City Attorney have all been notified of the designation and the tree will be preserved for years to come.

Ostwald is overjoyed and says her husband would be proud.