A Posthumous Appreciation for an 86-year-old American Elm Tree


By Sally Stovall

As I left church a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a huge base of a tree trunk on the parkway of our church property. I felt a mix of surprise, anger and sadness. Clearly it was a very large tree that I hadn’t really paid much attention to. In the coming weeks, I started seeing more signs of other trees that had been cut down. These images of previously large, beautiful trees that had stood for years, now shaved off at the ground haunted me, and I wanted to know more.

I asked a knowledgeable friend and then finally called the village forester, Rob Sproule. He told me that “my” American Elm had been identified as having the symptoms of Dutch Elm disease and therefore had been marked for removal. He also shared with me more information about the village’s parkway tree maintenance program, and I learned that, “Village foresters must continually monitor trees for damage, disease and insect infestations, with an eye toward public safety. Most trees also have a set life span. Removing trees and planting new ones is a basic part of the life cycle of an urban forest.”

It all seemed very logical and reasonable, but it didn’t make me feel much better. On reflection, I realized that what was really bothering me is that I had not noticed that tree until it was gone! It was part of the familiar landscape that I passed a couple of times a week but never fully appreciated its beauty and all the many benefits it brought to the block at the corner of Washington and Euclid. Since I work with a group of about 8 elementary age children at the church, perhaps we will have a mini memorial service for our tree to say “thank you” for all that it has done for us and the birds, the insects and other living creatures that it supported over the years!  

And then we will turn our attention to the future – appreciation of our remaining living trees and a replacement tree for our amazing American Elm. Rob Sproule let me know that the spot has been approved for a replacement tree. Hooray! While residents can’t be guaranteed a particular type of tree, they can submit a request for a particular type of tree, and their request will be considered based on availability and suitability at the time of replacement. I’m looking forward to engaging the congregation in selecting and loving that replacement tree!

Resources for learning more about the trees on your parkway and the many benefits they bring to your family and your neighborhood:

  1. Learn the tree species that are located on your block: Oak Park Tree Inventory. Enter your address and click on the green dots on your block to get the tree species information.

  2. Benefits of Trees (or see side bar)

  3. Tree Selector Tool(includes option to select trees native to this area)

  4. Related Article: Oak Tree Advocate Shares Challenges and Opportunities