Tree Warden to be Buried in “Herbie” Tree Casket
Huffington Post Green reports that 103-year-old Frank Knight, Herbie’s famous Tree Warden, died this Monday.
Knight was known as Yarmouth’s Tree Warden who fought to save Herbie, the 217-year-old American elm tree and the tallest in New England, from Dutch elm disease for 50 years. Because of Knight’s and other volunteers’ efforts, the historic tree reportedly survived 14 rounds of the disease while hundreds of other elm trees in New England died one after another. Herbie stood as a majestic street tree in Yarmouth, New England for decades and became well-loved by local residents. But two years ago Herbie was felled after finally succumbing to the disease. Frank Knight was among the crowd that gathered to witness the cutting down of the beloved elm tree. The then 101-year-old Knight said that he accepted it was time to let his “old friend” go, and prophetically stated “It’s his time now, and soon it will be mine.”
Herbie was cut down both for safety reasons and to prevent the disease from spreading in the area. The elm tree was 110 feet tall, it’s trunk 23 feet in circumference and it’s canopy’s spread 120 feet wide. It took five hours to cut the tree down after it grew for over 200 years at the corner of Yankee Drive and East Main Street. The town’s current tree warden, Debra Hopkins, made arrangements for Herbie’s wood to be used by local woodworkers. Project Herbie was created to make useful wood products and memorabilia from Herbie’s wood. Hundreds of wooden bookmarks, cutting boards, and medallions were made and sold to the public. As of May 15, 2012, The Herbie Project ‘s site still sells ornaments, bottle stoppers, baseball bats, and other products. A Tree Trust was also created in memory of Herbie’s legacy and focuses on planting disease-resistant street trees.
But the biggest twist in Herbie’s story is that a casket was made from its wood for its special friend and guardian Frank Knight. The project was kept secret from Knight and made at his family’s request. Hopkins observes in an interview that Herbie will be able to take care of Knight now as Knight had taken care of Herbie for the past 50 years. The arrangement to have Knight’s remains buried in the special wooden casket is not only natural and eco-friendly but seemed a fitting end to their story, a lasting memorial to their special connection.
Because of his dedication in protecting Herbie, generations of people have enjoyed the majestic tree’s beauty, shade, and protection. Indeed, residents who have lived for decades near Herbie now anticipate hotter days, more noise from the highway and loss of friendly wildlife neighbors because of the tree’s absence.
Frank Knight may not have been able to do something remarkable in a larger scale like saving entire forests or fixing the global climate, but it doesn’t mean his life had no significant impact. His dedication to saving and guarding just this one tree is an inspiration to everyone who cares about the environment. Like the story of the boy and the stranded starfish, Frank Knight’s legacy proves that no single act is ever wasted. Every little effort to do our part in caring for the environment counts.
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