Missing Christmas Tree Saga Gets a Happy Ending

Missing Christmas Tree Saga Gets a Happy Ending
San Clemente's missing community Christmas tree has been returned to the beach trail. (Courtesy of Deborah Sheldrake-Stetson)

The mystery of two missing community Christmas trees in San Clemente, California, has been solved.

Residents of the coastal city were baffled—and the organizer heartbroken—after the first of two holiday plants went missing from its perch Dec. 8. The tree had been a longstanding tradition led by Deborah Sheldrake-Stetson, who encouraged others to help decorate it.

As she has done routinely for the past 14 years, she placed the bare tree near Calafia Beach, just south of the rail crossing, the evening of Nov. 30.

She said she was devastated to find the tree missing Dec. 8, and put out a community cry for help. A Good Samaritan made a $300 donation, which allowed Sheldrake-Stetson to buy a replacement. But it, too, disappeared.

She could soon be crying tears of joy; the City of San Clemente returned the decorated trees to the San Clemente beach, not far from where they originally stood. They were moved further away from the rail crossing.

San Clemente Councilmember Gene James said the removal of the trees was related to an upcoming federal inspection of the city’s rail crossings. The inspection related to city attempts to have its quiet zone rail waiver reinstated.

“The crossings wouldn’t have passed inspection,” James told The Epoch Times. “That’s why it was initially removed.”

The city didn’t know who the three belonged too, which is why it was kept in safekeeping at city hall until it was claimed.

“There was a recognition that tree was important to people and consequently the city handled the tree without disturbing it, without losing any of the ornaments, and waited for someone to contact them to return the tree,” James said. “I think this is a good story all around.”

Michelle Thompson is an editor and reporter based in Orange County, California. Her award-winning work has appeared in numerous major Canadian daily newspapers, as well as multiple U.S. publications.
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