By PAUL SIMS
LOWNDES COUNTY — A grove of trees at a church on U.S. Highway 82’s frontage road doesn’t look distinctive to passersby.
However, to people who fly in and out of Golden Triangle Regional Airport or look at the property from a satellite map search on the Internet, the trees take on a definite pattern – one forming a cross.
Frank Troskey, of Columbus, worked for several decades as a forester throughout Mississippi and spent some time at Mississippi State University computing forestry information. He was also a Naval aviator, according to information supplied via e-mail.
His wife, Esther Troskey, passed away last year. She’d been a member at what was then known as Trinity Church when it was built.
The Rev. Curtis Petrey – the church’s pastor at the time – and his wife, Nancy, made landscaping plans for the property.
“The fact that the church was being built close to the end of the GTR airport runway meant that many people would see it as they flew in and out of the airport,” Troskey said in an e-mail interview, adding he was “well aware of this” because of his flying experience.
“And being a professional forester for 45 years at the time, I knew how fast the trees would grow and how they would look as they grew,” he said.
When asked his desired outcome for having the cross be best viewed from the air, he said.
“Just to be a reminder of our Christian faith. The same reason that people wear crosses on necklaces and on their suit-coat lapels – to remind others that they are Christian and to remind people of Christ.”
He credits Petrey for his role in planning the cross and donating an acre of church property for the cross. Newton Guerry, a church member at the time, and Petrey’s son Bert, helped Troskey plant some 350 Loblolly Pine seedlings around 1993.
He said he decided to take another look at the cross from an aerial perspective recently because “the pictures that we had were taken a few years ago and we were wondering how it looked now that the trees are getting taller.”
In the mid-1990s, such services as Google Maps and Bing Maps weren’t in existence, Troskey said.
“But now anyone in the world can look at satellite images of the whole earth. We wanted to see what the latest satellite pictures look like, so we checked on Google and Bing, and were very happy with how good the cross looks in the winter,” he said. “It looks like an emerald cross against a light brown background of dormant winter grass.”
He says the cross has needed very little tending.
“For the first two years, I examined it regularly and over 99 percent of the seedlings grew well. After that, trees take care of themselves as long as they have rainfall and sunshine,” Troskey said. “The church mows the lawn. ... some broken branches occasionally need to be picked up. Mother Nature is doing the tending.”
Troskey said: “I imagine that our father enjoys looking down at this memorial to his son Jesus.”
When asked how turned out, Troskey said: “I am very pleased. It looks like I expected it to look and, in the prairie, it stands out, as I had expected it would.”
He says “the cross should continue to look good for decades.”
When asked what impression, message or concept he would like to leave with people who see or hear of the cross, he said: “That Christians who observe it will have their faith strengthened to some degree. It will give Christians a good feeling when they see it. People who are not Christians may be led to become Christians.”
He shared his thoughts about why the story about the cross is relevant at Christmas.
“The whole Christmas season exists because of the birth of Jesus ... the reason for the season. We need to keep Christ in Christmas,” Troskey said.