Choir Notes

Making a Difference With One Tall Tree
From Music and the Spoken Word
Delivered By: Lloyd D. Newell • Program 4326

For 217 years, Yarmouth, Maine, was home to New England’s largest American elm tree. Planted the year George Washington began his second term as president, "Herbie”—as the tree was affectionately called—grew under the watchful care of the city’s volunteer tree warden, Frank Knight, since the 1950s. But Knight was more than just a caretaker of the enormous 110-foot tree—he was devoted to it. He considered the giant elm "an old friend,” and his eyes twinkled as he escorted visitors to the massive trunk with its sprawling canopy.

For five decades, while Dutch elm disease was killing hundreds of other trees in the area, Knight was able to save Herbie by pruning away diseased branches and applying pesticides. It took some time, but it took even more heart. Finally, in January 2010, disease got the best of the grand old elm. Knight, then retired, stood by as the tree was cut down. Knight said, "I thank the good Lord every day that we had him in his glory and beauty for so long."

Two years later, at age 103, Knight passed away and was buried in a casket made from the trunk of the tree. His friend and fellow tree warden observed: "I feel like Frank took good care of Herbie. Now Herbie will take good care of Frank.”1

Knight’s passion for trees was contagious and inspiring. His efforts were an expression of love and pride in a tree that had blessed so many for so many years. Knight was a bit like that himself. He quietly cared for a single tree but in the process blessed thousands who enjoyed the tree’s majestic beauty. 

Perhaps that is the lesson for all of us in Frank Knight’s life. Sometimes service that seems small is more significant than we realize. When we show love and loyalty to even one person, we may in fact be touching and inspiring many others.  

1 In David Sharp, "Maine Man Who Cared for Famed Old Tree Dies at 103,” msnbc, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47420369/ns/us_news-life/t/maine-man-who-cared-famed-old-tree-dies/#.T--7GfXhd0I, May 12, 2012.

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