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Manhattan Residents Had a Wake for This Doomed Tree

The weeping willow’s name is Cher.

Cher, a 25-foot weeping willow tree, has lived in Manhattan since the 1970s. She makes her home in the La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez community garden, in the East Village.

Earlier this year, she started showing signs of advanced old age—crumbling wood; fungus under her bark. She was even dropping the occasional branch. So the Parks Department made a decision: Cher would have to come down.

When a beloved community member gets that kind of diagnosis, it’s best to pay your respects. And so this past Sunday, July 9th, Cher’s friends and neighbors gathered beneath her gracefully arcing branches for a tree wake.

Cher—which stands in the southwest corner of the park, by Avenue C and 9th street— has watched over the neighborhood for 41 years. According to a press release from La Plaza, she was installed “thanks to a grant from Plant-a-Lot,” along with two companion willows, named Krusty and Wally.

Wally was toppled by Hurricane Irene, and Krusty is also expected to be slotted for removal by the Parks Department, although the hammer has not come down on him just yet.

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Sunday’s wake was led by local activist and performer Reverend Billy, who led the group in free-form prayer and song. Photos posted on local blog EV Grieve show scores of people sitting on the grass or standing in the shade, many wearing leaf garlands. (One held a sign that said “Plant New Willows.”) In one video clip, Reverend Billy thanks the tree, just as a small bird flies and perches on one of its highest branches.

Cher—and Krusty, when he goes—will clearly be missed. “They’re kind of like the icons of the space,” the garden’s executive director, Ross Martin, told DNAinfo. “They dominate everyone’s view of the place.”

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