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One of city's oldest trees snaps

Nov. 02, 2013 @ 12:03 AM

HUNTINGTON — A white oak tree on Huntington's Southside that many residents regarded as one of the oldest and most beautiful in the city was mangled by strong winds during a severe thunderstorm early Friday.

Courtney Proctor Cross, who lives at 216 West 11th Ave., said she woke up about 2:15 a.m. to cracking, crashing sounds in her side yard and against her home. When daylight came, her worst fears were realized. The tree had snapped and splintered at the trunk.

"Everyone understands this is like a death in the family to me," said Cross, who is chairwoman of the city's Urban Forestry Committee. "I know that might sound extreme, but it's how it feels."

Cross said experts have estimated that the tree was approximately 300 years old and stood about 90 feet tall. White oaks grow extremely slowly and can live for 500 to 600 years, especially in well-drained soil, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Cross was joined by dozens of neighbors in her yard Friday morning as they marveled at the storm's power and reminisced of better times they enjoyed under the large white oak. A second-grade teacher at Southside Elementary School, Cross said she hosted summer picnics for family members and coworkers under the tree. It also was a fitting spot to have a funeral for her golden retriever, she said.

The tree's long branches fell into the side of Cross' home, damaging the roof and ceiling joists and smashing a few windows.

"It's routine stuff to deal with," she said. "Nothing compared to the loss of this tree."

The tree was almost cut down in 1950 to make way for new homes along 3rd Street West, Cross said. The Tidman family, who owned the property before Cross and her husband purchased it in 2005, paid $10,000 for the lot and saved the tree. After Cross bought the house, she would occasionally pick up Genevra Tidman from her residence at the Woodlands Retirement Community and drive her back to the house so the two could spend afternoons under the tree together.

"It was her pride and joy," Cross said of Tidman, who died a few years ago. "The only reason she let me buy the house is because she knew I would enjoy it as much as she did. I wanted the story to continue. I didn't want to see it come to an end like this."

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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