As she drove her familiar route through Huckleberry Park Saturday, Oct. 7, a Hannibal resident was surprised to see a once-deteriorating tree near the National Guard being removed free of charge.

Linda Lovett said one of tree’s branches had recently crashed through a motorist’s windshield, but the driver and child inside were uninjured. The National Guard prepared to seek bids to remove the old tree, but after they talked with Marvin Watkins, co-owner of Timber Masters Tree Service in St. Louis, staff members quickly realized that bids wouldn’t be necessary. Watkins, his wife, Marquetia Watkins, and their son, Marvin Watkins Jr. — co-owners of the family business — all decided they would perform the work for free to thank the National Guard for their service to the nation.

“We all came up with the idea to do it for free, because the National Guard and the Army fight for our country,” Watkins said.

Watkins brought a family effort together on Saturday morning to remove the tree — Marquetia Watkins and Marvin Watkins Jr. were joined by his wife, Beth Watkins, and their sons Marvin Watkins III, Dylan Watkins and stepson Dakoata Waters. Lovett made sure to express her thanks to the cheerful family members as she passed by on Saturday.

“They did a wonderful job cleaning [the tree] up and cutting it down and everything, and I just thought that was kind of cool that they did it for nothing, I thought that was great,” she said. “And I thought, well it would be kind of nice if they got recognition for that.”

Watkins said the family members all “felt good about” the job, noting they felt it was the right way to show gratitude to members of the military instead of the National Guard having to bid the work out.

“People want to try to make money off of them; they fight for our country,” he said. “It’s a way for us to say thank you.”

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com