An Obituary for Douglaston's Great White Oak

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In Douglaston, Queens, some people are mourning the death of an old tree. And we can understand their feelings.

    This white oak, which stood 70 feet high, might have been 600 years old. But experts found that it was rotting within and they believed it had to be cut down to protect the folks who lived under its branches. Thus, piece by piece, as the New York Times reports, the tree is  being dismantled.

     One architect told a reporter, A.G. Sulzberger: "It was the eighth wonder of Douglaston. We never thought it would disappear."

    The Great White Oak of Douglaston was believed to be the biggest on Long Island. A huge branch fell off during a recent storm, damaging the home that stood directly underneath. The home owner, Ray Rombone, said, sadly, the tree had to come down “for our safety, for our children and grandchildren’s safety and for anyone else who comes to visit."

    We sometimes take trees for granted---but New York would be a poorer place without them. In all five boroughs trees enrich our lives and the lives of our children.  They are one of our most precious resources and the people of Douglaston should not be alone in mourning the loss of this great one.

    Through the ages, writers have expressed their love of trees. Joseph Campbell said: "God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, ‘Ah!'"

    New York’s own Walt Whitman asked: "Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?"

    "I like trees, said Willa Cather, “because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do."

    William Cullen  Bryant: "The groves were God’s first temples."                                                                                                                     
    In Jerusalem at the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, I have seen the trees planted, each bearing a plaque honoring a Christian who risked his or her life to save people from the gas chambers. It's a moving sight.

    Here in the Bronx there’s a park that occupies a square block right near Yankee Stadium. It was one of the treasures of my childhood. The park is named after Joyce Kilmer, a young poet who died in World War I. It’s a simple park, with trees and benches---a refuge for elderly people and mothers with young children.

    Joyce Kilmer wrote the lines: “I think that I shall never see

    "A poem lovely as a tree."

    And Kilmer went on to pen the words: ‘’Poems are made by fools like me -- but only God can make a tree."    

    So, people of Douglaston, we understand your concerns. The Great White Oak will be missed. To a bereaved neighborhood we offer condolences.