It looms large and majestically over the houses on property formerly owned by Edith Rockefeller McCormick in the area around Selborne and Parkway roads, as it has for decades, with no one knowing its true age. But it is believed to be the second oldest tree in Riverside. 

Unfortunately, this giant elm tree is nearing the end of its life due to the beetle that has infected and taken so many of Riverside’s gorgeous trees. Its life could have been prolonged or possibly saved had it been routinely treated, but that didn’t happen and so now we wait for the dreaded sound of another tree being cut down.

Located in the backyard of property adjacent to ours, it has provided us with shade and recreation. When we moved to our present house, the lot was vacant so it was a play area for the neighborhood children; a rope could be looped over one of the tree branches for a makeshift swing. It even had the distinction of having a pony tethered to it for a weekend when a well-intentioned person gave our children a pony. (That’s a story for another column.) The pony was very content eating a perfect circle of grass around the tree; we moved him around and he helped mow the grass. 

Those days are gone but fondly remembered.

Since the late-’60s when a residence was built on the property, it has provide a nesting place for many birds and squirrels who will now have to find new places to live. The squirrels in particular have had their own “jungle gym” of sorts, jumping from branch to branch with no fear of height. We sometimes refer to them as “Rocky Wallenda.”

We will miss the tree, it gave us shade in the summer and leaves in the fall that could be mulched. As it continues to shed its leaves, it’s almost as if it were weeping and saying goodbye to an era of history in this part of town. There is a large part of the tree that still looks healthy and lush, but it is only a short time before the disease overtakes the remaining parts of the tree. We have taken pictures at all angles because it still has some of its beauty.

They say the tree must come down this month; I don’t think I want to be around when that happens.

Trees, like people, become our friends.

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