Each year around Thanksgiving, children parade a few blocks from the Granville Elementary School to Broadway to decorate fresh-cut pine trees on the village’s main street with ornaments they made in school.

It’s a tradition stretching back decades. Parents and grandparents show up to walk with the students and snap photos. And from that day until Christmas, little children can be overheard on Broadway proudly telling their friends and family that “I made that!”  Or that “I helped decorate that tree!”

But this year, for the first time anyone can remember, one of the trees went missing. The report was filed at 12:51 p.m. on Thursday: One of the beloved downtown Granville Christmas trees had been stolen!

Who in the name of Whoville would do such a thing? Did they know that little children made the decorations, some of which fell from the tree as it was being lifted from its mooring near one of the downtown churches?

“It was a couple of young men who imbibed a little too much and made a silly mistake while in a really good mood,” said Granville Police Chief Bill Caskey.

Such a case is not typical detective work for his department.

“I believe it was a first,” Caskey said.

But within a few hours, Granville police officers had found the tree in the Denison University dorm room of the two young men.

“The tree has been returned, along with the ornaments that were on it,” Caskey said. “They have issued an apology to the children.”

For the first-graders who made the ornaments on the tree, it must have been at least a little confusing. Many of them know Denison students as volunteers and teachers-in-training who come to their classes and read to them or help them with lessons, or as volunteer coaches of their sports teams, or as the singers and musicians who join them at concerts during the annual Christmas Candlelight Walking Tour.  

Jeff Brown, superintendent of Granville Exempted Village Schools, said that two people went to the elementary school Friday to apologize.

“When they realized young children were involved, they were very remorseful,” Brown said. “The fact that there was responsibility taken and an effort to rectify this says a lot.”

Chief Caskey said it clearly was a life lesson for the young men who took the tree.

“Both seem to be really nice people. They felt really bad about it,” he said, adding that they were charged with disorderly conduct and, like many first-time offenders, will have the opportunity to enter a program that will allow them to do community service that could result in the charge being erased from the record.

“They made a stupid mistake, and they took responsibility,” the chief said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s resolved.”

Alan Miller

Alan Miller teaches journalism and writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University's Journalism Program. He is the former executive editor of The Columbus Dispatch and former Regional Editor for Gannett's 21-newsroom USAToday Network Ohio.