Abner Ludtke, the founder of a Whatcom County trucking company that still bears the family name, died in Bellingham Monday, June 6, 2016. He was 99.
Ludtke gained lasting renown in local history when he hauled a nearly 153-foot-tall Douglas fir from Sumas to downtown Bellingham, where it was decorated and lifted into place as the world’s tallest Christmas tree.
The tree was so large that one truck couldn’t handle it, so two of Ludtke’s trucks were used. He drove the lead truck and Frank Aubel drove the rear one. The trucks weren’t physically connected, but were joined, in a sense, by the tree, which was chained to the trucks, with netting to control its limbs. Aubel was virtually buried under the foliage, so he and Ludtke used a two-way radio to communicate during their 35-mile journey from Sumas to Bellingham.
A funeral service for Ludtke will be noon Tuesday, June 14, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 119 Texas S. A reception at the church will follow.
A December 2014 article on BellinghamHerald.com recounted the 1949 feat of transporting the tree.