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Family left heartbroken after memorial tree vandalized at Rose Park in Billings

Family left heartbroken after memorial tree vandalized at Rose Park
Posted at 8:27 AM, Mar 12, 2024

BILLINGS — Shirley Abbey and her family always look forward to coming together during the holidays to decorate the branches of a tree they planted at Rose Park.

“We planted this tree nine years ago when we lost our daughter,” Abbey said on Monday.

Abbey spends a lot of time at Rose Park during the spring and summer months, smelling the purple irises planted under the tree. Abbey said the flowers smell just like purple Kool-Aid, which was her daughter Trisha's favorite.

Family left heartbroken after memorial tree vandalized at Rose Park

The tree is planted in the Sculpture Garden area at Rose Park with the Compassionate Friends Billings Chapter and is just another way Abbey can honor her late daughter.

“My daughter was beautiful. She had a very complicated medical history, and she had a liver transplant at 27 years old and several other complicated medical issues and then one day we just lost her,” Abbey said. “This is a very important place for people, you know, and maybe people don’t understand what this is.”

Family left heartbroken after memorial tree vandalized at Rose Park
Trisha Kay Wilson (Crail)

The Compassionate Friends Billings Chapter offers support for families after a child dies. The group has a floral garden and life-brick walkway at the park. The group does poetry readings and butterfly releases at the park.

Family left heartbroken after memorial tree vandalized at Rose Park

On top of decorating the tree with Christmas ornaments and lights, Abbey and her family also gather at the park during Trisha's birthday.

Abbey was devastated when she discovered her daughter's tree was vandalized over the weekend. The ornaments were broken and scattered around the tree and multiple branches were broken off at the trunk.

Family left heartbroken after memorial tree vandalized at Rose Park

“This is not a place to destroy. It's about remembering beautiful things,” Abbey said. “Hopefully this tree survives. It was very special. It’s important.”

Roger Crabtree is a member of the neighborhood's watch program and walks around the area with his dog, Dave, nearly every day.

Family left heartbroken after memorial tree vandalized at Rose Park

“I have no idea who a lot of these people are, don’t have a clue, but to see them destroyed like that, it’s saddening,” Crabtree said.

Crabtree and his wife were the ones who reported the vandalism to the police. This isn't the first time their neighborhood has had problems with vandals. Crabtree said windows get broken out, items are stolen and people drive through the park on the grass.

“It happens a lot, a lot more than what you’d think,” Crabtree said. “We've taken it upon ourselves to try to change things in our neighborhood.”