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Durham Residents Reminiscence After Losing Leafy Neighbor

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A bit of Durham's history was lost Thursday when a 125-year-old oak tree came down. For residents, the tree on Old Oak Court was a powerful symbol.(WRAL-TV5 News)
DURHAM — A bit of Durham's history was lost Thursday when a 125-year-old oak tree came down. Some people might think it is not a big deal, but it is a giant loss to people who considered the tree a towering neighbor.

Since before man learned to fly, the oak tree stood tall in Durham. For the residents in the community, the once-majestic oak on Old Oak Court was a powerful symbol.

"They said it's 125 years old. That's a long time," says resident Bill Heroy. "The birds would come here and feed, and they'd get up on that tree and sing."

The oak tree survived all that Mother Nature lashed at her for more than 125 years, but in the end, it could not withstand man. After many attempts to save her, the tree had to come down.

The residents gathered Thursday to say good-bye and to honor her legacy.

"It was a fascinating tree, just nice to look out at," says resident Ortrude Busse.

Residents say they saw a reflection of their own lives in the tree.

"Time passes and people pass and trees pass. That's just part of life," says resident P.J. Burns. "We've lost part of our family, but this is still a home place for us. We will replace this and carry on."

The people of the community wanted to make sure that, even in death, it would be a "giving tree," so the residents voted to donate the wood to the Durham Rescue Mission.

"It's going to provide some heat and hot water for about 100 men a day for the rest of the winter probably," says rescue mission worker Ken Rogers.

It is believed the roots of the tree were damaged during the construction of the retirement community nearly 10 years ago. Residents hope to plant another oak tree in its place.


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