THE majestic 25-metre elm is a part of Patricia Kuzak's home in West Kildonan, and she has become its silver-haired saviour.
Still in her red bathrobe Thursday morning, the 76-year-old woman ran barefoot to the boulevard in front of her south-facing house to rescue the old tree.
Kuzak said sewage and drainage upgrades were being done in front of her home by city workers and a private construction crew -- they were digging a hole and, in the process, sawing through two giant sections of the elm's roots.
So, she leaped into action.
"I said, 'Get the hell out of here. I'm phoning the press, I'm calling the city, I'm getting an arborist out here.' And they did," said Kuzak. She also put up signs warning crews she had planted perennials on the boulevard beneath the mountainous snowbanks.
"You can bulldoze the house but you can't take a tree. You start to think like (Pierre) Trudeau... 'Just watch me,' " she said.
"Why would they excavate directly in front of a tree? It's a big bloody tree; it took a long time to get that big. How come human beings have no respect for any living things other than themselves?"
The tree, so enormous that its trunk branches out three ways, has shaded the house she and her husband, Bob, 78, have owned since 1965 and where they raised their four daughters. It has been the backdrop to countless family photos and a cornucopia of colour as the seasons changed in the environment and their lives.
"We sit on the front step as a family, under the canopy of this tree and chew the fat out there. It's like our patio, right there on the front steps. It shades us. It protects us from the hot sun," she said.
"If you don't act, things will happen that you can't change. I'm just saying give us a way to get around this without tearing up the roots of that tree."
The tree is mostly on the Kuzaks' property.
Kuzak contacted Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski), who arranged to have an official go to the property.
"The city sent Chris out here from their forestry department and he said it's a private tree so the city won't make an assessment on it," said Bob Kuzak. "But (workers) moved off our frontage and are digging where there's no big tree, so we see what the power of one can do.
"Pat went out there and told them to stop, she called the city and the city did respond. They came to our rescue."
Eadie said since the tree has been identified as a private tree. If it dies because of the root damage, the issue would be between the homeowners and Borland Construction, which is the contracted service that cut the roots.
"It is a beautiful tree, so I hope it will be OK," Eadie said.
The couple said they'll watch the tree for signs of distress, but hope for the best.
"I told Bob, if that tree is down, I'm down," Patricia said. "The tree is more important than the house. You can build a house. You can't build a tree."