By John Lauritsen

FARIBAULT, Minn. (WCCO) — When vandals cut down trees in Faribault last week, they took away more than just a maple tree from one family.

Peggy and Don Paulson lost their 16-year-old son, Nicholas, in 2009.

After his death, they planted a tree in his honor near the Faribault soccer complex where Nicholas played as a kid.

“He loved hanging out with his friends. He was a happy-go-lucky guy. Everybody loved him,” mom Peggy said.

For Peggy and Don Paulson, that love hasn’t changed, eight years after losing their son.

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“It’s really difficult to lose a child. It’s really difficult. I can’t even tell you,” Don said.

What has helped is watching a maple tree grow near the soccer field where Nicholas once played. It was planted during a dedication shortly after his death, and a remembrance plaque was placed at the bottom. A red maple was chosen because Nicholas’s friends affectionately called him, “Ginger.”

“It’s the living thing that keeps going. It’s one thing to go to his gravesite and see him, but you can come here and see the growth and you see the development and that continued,” Peggy said.

But last Wednesday, vandals cut down the Paulsons’ growing memory of Nicholas. One of seven trees they removed with no explanation.

former site of nicholas paulsons memorial tree In Cutting Down Tree, Vandals Rob Parents Of Sons Living Memorial

(credit: CBS)

“You think a tree is going to be there as a memorial forever. When somebody comes and cuts it down, it’s not a good thing,” said Mike Ross of the Faribault Soccer Association.

“It’s just really sad when you think — sort of senseless and people don’t really know the impact of their actions,” Peggy said.

To the Paulsons, this was more than just a tree. They’re hoping to do another dedication for Nicholas and plant another tree. All they ask is that the next one is allowed to grow with the lasting memory of their son.

“He would just have fun, he lived life to the fullest. And I think he left us a lot of gifts in those 16 years that he was here,” Peggy said.

Police are looking through surveillance video taken last Wednesday night.

The Paulsons want to thank everyone for their support.

They say if people are looking to help out, they should make a donation to the Faribault soccer or hockey associations in Nicholas’s honor. Or, they can donate to Faith’s Lodge.

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