EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — Cindy Westbrook paused when she began calculating how many new angels they’ll place on the Tree of Angels during the upcoming ceremony.
“Fourteen,” she said. “We’re adding 14 new angels, and that’s a lot.”
Westbrook and her husband, Bill Bilbrey, have been the caretakers of the Highland Lakes area’s Tree of Angels for several years, but last year, due to health issues couldn’t hold the annual ceremony that honors victims of violent crimes. Considering they usually add two to three new angels a year, 14 is quite a jump, even over a two-year period.
The names on the Tree of Angels are those who have died as the result of violence, whether victims of drunk drivers or victims of murder.
“It’s a chance for the families to remember their loved ones and the community to recognize them,” Westbrook said.
This year’s ceremony is Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Marble Falls Church of Christ, 711 Broadway. Doors open at 4 p.m. with the ceremony starting at 5 p.m.
Along with the names who have been placed on the tree in years past, family members of the latest victims are invited to place the name of their loved ones on the Tree of Angels. Even if there isn’t a family member or a loved one in attendance, Westbrook will make sure the name is placed and the person is remembered.
On Monday, Dec. 4, organizers will move the Tree of Angels to Marble Falls City Hall, 800 Third St., where it will remain in repose through New Year’s Day as a reminder of those lost to violence.
In 1991, Verna Lee of People Against Violent Crimes proposed the Tree of Angels as she realized the holiday season was difficult for survivors of violent crimes and their families. It was a way of honoring them.
Since its inception, the Tree of Angels has spread across Texas and into other states.
Former 33rd Judicial District Attorney Sam Oatman and his office initiated the Tree of Angels in the Highland Lakes, but after several years, the Hill Country Survivors of Violent Crimes took over as conservatory of the tree. It’s been a calling for Westbrook and Bilbrey as they ensure the ornaments and tree are taken care of during the year.
The Highland Lakes Tree of Angels honors and recognizes victims in Burnet, Blanco, Llano, and San Saba counties.
“It’s an important ceremony,” Westbrook said. “We need to remember the victims and their families.”
The public is welcome to attend the ceremony, or afterward, visit the tree at City Hall.
Go to treeofangels.org for more information.