By Kelsey Ryan
In the week after the May 22 tornado, Jim Schoeberl and Jeff Slama, members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, cut down a tornado-damaged walnut tree that stood in front of St. Mary’s Elementary School. As they sliced into the bark, the saw’s blade became dull from debris embedded in the tree by high winds.
The wood has been repurposed as a rustic, handcrafted end table that will be auctioned off tonight (Saturday, April 28) as part of an annual fundraiser for Joplin Area Catholic Schools.
“When I sawed the tree down, I felt so badly something so beautiful and so majestic at one time was destroyed,” Schoeberl said. “This is one way to have part of the tree move on.”
Tree rings indicate the walnut was about 60 years old.
Schoeberl said there’s one piece of the wood where a person can see the bark that was stripped off — an indication of the tornado’s strength.
“It was definitely a recycling effort — basically taking what God has made and trying to arrange the components into a pleasing and proportional piece of furniture,” Schoeberl said. “Multiple generations of students at St. Mary’s school have enjoyed that tree, so it definitely has a sentimental impact.”
The table is one of hundreds of items that will be sold at the auction.
Renee Motazedi, development director for JACS, said the event has drawn up to 500 people in past years. This is the 16th year for the auction.
“Out of all the years we’ve worked on the auction, this is probably the very best as far as what we have to offer,” Motazedi said.
The silent auction has about 500 items, including sports memorabilia, jewelry, fine art and home decor. Live auction items include trips to a NASCAR race or Orlando, Fla., as well as a bed-and-breakfast package, a 2004 pop-up camper, and jewelry from Comeau Jewelry.
Other tornado-related items also will be up for bid, including a necklace made from stained glass from St. Mary’s and a Tree of Life pendant created from debris. There will also be artwork of angels made from tornado debris by artist Tricia Courtney.
A tornado search-and-rescue hard hat that has been autographed by NASCAR drivers and owners also will be auctioned. The piece includes pictures of the drivers and owners signing it.
“The buildings to us as a church and school, it’s emotionally near and dear to our hearts,” Motazedi said. “We watched our children grow up and kids baptized there. Things that are important to Catholics all took place in the church and school. It’s a neat way to memorialize the buildings that have meant so much to us over the years.”
A catalog of auction items is available online. Those interested can buy tickets and participate in an online auction at the school’s website, www.jacss.org.
The auction will begin at 5:30 p.m. today at the Jack Lawton Webb Convention Center, 4000 S. Range Line Road. Admission is $25 per person, which includes a bid number, food and drink. Dinner provided by Big R’s BBQ will be served at 6 p.m. A raffle also will be held.