Bill Moeller Commentary: There Once Was a Tree We Could See


After the article about the chopping down and removal of the Peace Tree from Centralia’s Washington Park appeared in last Thursday’s Chronicle, I expected that there would be more response than usual to the Vigil for Peace that has been held every Saturday for 21 years. 

Over those years, approval by those who drive by during that weekly hour — displayed by a show of thumbs up and a wave or a short honk from their cars — has steadily increased in the last dozen or so years. 

During that time, I’ve stood on the corner in front of the library with a sign for peace in my hand, and I confess that, since I attained the status of nonagenarian, on only rare occasions has my attendance been absent through the winter.

So, when a light misty rain this past Saturday was all that might have deterred me from attending the weekly gathering, I bundled up warmer than I needed to and — with an old tall stool to ease these ancient legs — settled in for another hour at the park with friends. 

And I had hoped that last week’s story in The Chronicle about the destroyed peace tree, once visible from the sight where we conduct the vigil, might have encouraged a little increase in the number of acknowledgments. 

Traffic was about the same, though, and — at least here — there were none of the visual displays of a certain upright finger that used to occur in “the old days.”

A replacement tree has been purchased, and we’ll gather at 11 a.m. this Saturday with our picks and shovels to plant it. It will take a large rainfall to dissuade us from getting the larger substitute into the ground. I hope the honking and waving will be loud and clear when we’re done.

Changing the subject, when I first started to write this particular column back on the morning of Feb. 2, I suspected that an early spring might make itself known. By all rights it should, as a repayment for everything we’ve had to endure with the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I made this rash prediction following a slow walk around the narrow garden that surrounds three-quarters of the boundaries of the lot on which my 12-foot-wide mobile home sits. 

Spring bulbs are already making their presence known in copious quantities! Depending on the amount of sunshine they get, some are already 4 or more inches high. And the strip of grass that serves as a wandering walkway throughout the planted area is starting to grow as well. I hadn’t planned on getting the lawn mower out before March or April. Last year, I grew a few daffodils and liked them so well that I bought a box of about 75 more last fall, and I’m anxious to see what their impact will be. 

I also purchased a plant known as “Burning Bush” that’s supposed to stay red most of the season and a bright yellow shrub that has a name I can’t remember, both bought at the Lewis County Master Gardeners annual fall sale. 

I have two new shades of iris I haven’t seen bloom yet, along with four others that I have. The two rhododendrons in front of the home are showing the fattest pods of flowers to date, but — since they’re both the same color — one of them will be replaced after blooming, later this year. It just goes to show that there is absolutely no way to dismay or discourage an aging gardener when it comes to flowers, bushes or trees.


Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at