Neighbor helping neighbor a common sight after winter storm

Published 12:59 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Immediately after a winter storm caused widespread damage across the Miss-Lou two weeks ago, helpful neighbors in the community help lessen the impact of the storm’s blow for some.

One example of neighbor helping neighbor was on South Rankin Street.

Lizzie said when she moved to Natchez six years ago, one of the things that drew her attention to the house on South Rankin was the beautiful live oak trees in the yard.

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Knowing that the loss of one of those trees would upset her, Lizzie’s neighbor, Joey Suen, carefully and expertly carved out a fallen limb from a 150-year-old oak tree that lay across Dr. Christopher Martin and his wife Lizzie’s yard on the morning after the storm.

One of the Martins’ other neighbors, Jefferson Mansell, also noted the selflessness of Suen’s actions in a social media post last week.

“I know there are good-hearted, selfless neighbors like Joey across our great country, but I think we may have more than our fair share here in our little village,” Jefferson Mansell said.

Christopher, who is a surgeon at Merit Health Natchez, has been spending long and difficult days on the ICU floor because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mansell said.

Lizzie said Chris came home from work Thursday afternoon to help with the tree.

Lizzie said she had taken her children to her in-laws’ house the night before and never had to lay eyes on the sight of the fallen tree in her yard.

“It was a shame to have lost that big limb but I feel blessed,” she said. “We’ve all had varying degrees of damage. We’re really fortunate that that was the extent of the damage. It could have been so much worse. … Joey knew how much I love my trees and got out there almost immediately and got to work. He cut just right so that the rest of the tree could be saved.”

Suen, who was a timber cutter for 27 years and is now a forester of 14 years, said he is no stranger to keeping trees like the ones in the Martins’ yard healthy.

Suen said he does not advertise but will sometimes take tree cutting as a side job on weekends to save others the expense of hiring a tree service. Suen said he took it upon himself to help his neighbors after the storm without profiting from it.

“It was ugly and I knew she (Lizzie) would be heartbroken,” Suen said. “I was going to do my best to at least soften the blow when she came home.”

Suen also carved out the stump left at the base of the tree so that it could later be fashioned into a table, bench or something else aesthetically beautiful, Lizzie said.

“It looked a whole lot better than it did by the time we were done,” Suen said.

Lizzie said Suen also saved another tree, her favorite, long before the storm. The tree has a long swooping branch that Suen helped build supports for last year so that it wouldn’t break away from the trunk.

Without the support, that branch could have also fallen, Lizzie said.

“That one was saved and I give credit to Joey for that,” she said. “He has so much experience and knowledge when it comes to trees. Ever since we moved in, he would come by and give us advice.”

Lizzie said she feels Suen’s act of kindness is a testament to the Natchez community and other acts of kindness she has heard about whenever a disaster hits.

“When your neighbor suffers damage to their home, you always hear stories of neighbor helping neighbor. That is just the spirit of the Natchez community in the five to six years I’ve been here,” she said.