Couple donates 53-foot blue spruce for Pittsburgh's Christmas tree
Nancy Ruttner and Andy Sujdak on Saturday re-gifted one of their wedding presents to the City of Pittsburgh.
It was hard to part with something they enjoyed for 33 years, Ruttner of the city's Oakwood neighborhood said, but she couldn't think of a better cause.
The 53-foot blue spruce tree is gracing the front of the City-County Building, Downtown, commemorating Christmas and the bicentennial of Pittsburgh's incorporation as a city.
Ruttner and Sujdak will join Mayor Bill Peduto on Nov. 18 for a tree-lighting ceremony that will kick off the city's annual Light Up Night celebration.
"I feel bad about letting it go," Ruttner, 76, said on Friday. "I really do. I went out today and put my arms around the trunk and said, 'Oh, I'm going to miss you.' "
A Public Works crew from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, which jointly own the City-County Building, cut down the tree Saturday morning. Neighbors watched as they attached a crane, sawed through the trunk with a chain saw and loaded the tree onto a large flatbed truck for the trip Downtown.
"They should have done it with a helicopter," said Sujdak, 66.
Five Pittsburgh police officers on motorcycles escorted the tree, an annual duty for the Traffic Division, to make sure it arrived safely.
"I've done this every year but one since I've been in Traffic, and I've been here for 24 years," said Officer Kevin Head.
Pittsburgh closed a block of Grant Street in front of the City-County Building for most of the day as workers hoisted the tree onto the portico. They filled in bare spots by attaching branches from a second spruce to the trunk.
The second tree came from the Brighton Heights home of Kathleen Kopczynski.
Forestry foreman Rich Cervi said the city has typically found its holiday tree in North Side neighborhoods.
"This is actually one of the first times we haven't gotten (one) from the North Side in a while," Cervi said.
Ruttner said a co-worker gave her the tree — then a 1-foot sapling — when she and Sujdak were married in 1983.
Over the years, it grew and grew, towering over their home. They haven't been able to burn a fire in their living room fireplace for years because the tree grew too close to the chimney, she said.
"If it had to go, this is a great way for it to go," Ruttner said. "I think it's pretty wonderful — and it will be nice to burn our fireplace this year."
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or email@example.com.