WEST JORDAN — Two of West Jordan police officer Ron Wood's favorite places were his home and the softball diamond.
In addition to his family and softball, Wood loved trees. So it seemed appropriate that a tree honoring the slain officer would be planted Monday at the baseball complex that bears his name.
Wood, 39, was shot and killed by a 17-year-old boy on Nov. 18, 2002, at the entrance of a park near 2350 West and 7500 South.
An oak tree planted in memory of Wood at that park was chopped down by vandals in September. On Monday, a 15-foot red oak was planted at the Ron Wood Baseball Complex near 5800 West and the New Bingham Highway to replace what the vandals had taken away.
"I feel so grateful they planted another one," said Wood's widow Lourie, fighting back tears and speaking barely above a whisper. "I'm so thankful for the community."
Lourie Wood, along with Ron Wood's parents, often visited the first memorial tree and watered it. It was Wood's mother, Birgitta, who first discovered the vandalism.
"I couldn't believe it. There was just a stump. I said, 'Who could have done this?' " Birgitta Wood said.
As soon as the community found out what had happened, between 10 and 15 individuals and companies offered to replace the tree.
Roth Nursery was eventually selected to replace the oak. The nursery said members of the community wanted to give something back to Wood, so it not only donated the tree but had volunteers from the Children's Christian School plant it Monday.
"Someone chopped a tree down and that's sad and that's mean," said 11-year-old Courtney Dade about why the group was there.
About a dozen students dug the hole needed to plant the tree. After it was done, the students were led in prayer by school minister Kent Turpin, who gave thanks to Wood and all police officers for the jobs they do.
"We want to grow up and remember there are good guys out there and they're called policemen," he said. "We pray this tree will grow up big and strong and be big enough never to be put down."
Wood's parents and widow attended Monday's ceremony. They remembered their son and husband as having a passion for trees, which was evident by the orchard he planted around his own house. They also remembered the passion he had for his family and his job.
"He always watched over his mom," Birgitta Wood said.
Just before he was killed, Ron Wood installed a virus scanner on his mother's computer and gave her an easy password that she could remember. Now, Birgitta said every time the virus scanner activates she thinks of her son.
Many officers from the West Jordan Police Department were on hand for the replanting of the tree. Detective Brent Jex, who is also the president of the West Jordan chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said having a beautiful tree planted next to a ball field was a "really good combination."
Jex also said police were working on good leads to identify and catch the vandals responsible for chopping down the first tree.
Now, Lourie Wood said the tree will grow and give future ballplayers shade from the heat when they're playing. And children will learn to respect nature as they watch the tree grow.
"Ron would be honored and pleased," she said.