Like the people who nurture them from sapling to maturity, trees — even the most majestic in their green canopies of summer and rainbow colors of autumn — will sometimes become diseased.
Like the people who protect them and value their gift to life, trees — even the most statuesque and community admired — will die.
Such was the case in late August when the century-old red oak at 2020 Keith St. that inspired the naming of Oakmont Eyecare had to be taken down.
Even in a Tree City USA — a distinction held by “The City With Spirit” for 21 years — these giant monuments to the beauty of Mother Nature succumb to time, to the elements and to age. And for the safety of all, they on occasion must be removed.
Cleveland optometrists Drs. Walter and Blake Peterson, who operate Oakmont Eyecare, fell victim to near tragedy twice over the past several years when massive branches from the deteriorating oak broke, plummeted to earth and crushed employee vehicles in the company parking lot. Thankfully, no one was inside the vehicles on either occasion.
Over time, the business owners made every effort to safeguard this blessing of the outdoors through strategic trimming, a topping and even contracting a tree service to install steel cables to fortify the outreach of the mountainous canopy. Yet, as with people, the years took their toll and the business owners could no longer risk the safety of their employees, patients and visitors.
On Aug. 23 and 24, the impressive hardwood was taken down — by the same professional tree service that had labored for years to keep it alive. All that could be salvaged was the lower 15 feet of the thick trunk that will be covered with a gazebo-type roof and left as a legacy to life and as a reminder of the beauty of creation.
The decision to remove the oak did not come overnight nor was it made without respect to history and to Cleveland’s proud distinction as a Tree City USA. Oakmont Eyecare even advertised to the community of the actions that were about to take place and the Petersons invited this newspaper to cover the historic event — first in a front-page preview to better prepare the surrounding neighborhood, and then to send another reporter and photographer to provide documentation on the endeavor a few days later.
We were honored to provide both.
We were even more impressed by the sensitivity shown by the Petersons to the Cleveland community, and to our residents. To fell a tree is one thing. To take down one with such majesty and natural history is quite another.
Cleveland Urban Forester Dan Hartman, who works closely with the Cleveland Shade Tree Board, is our city’s guardian of the forests. Even he recognized this end of life and acknowledged little else could be done to salvage the oak while also protecting the lives of those in its cavernous shadows.
“We try our utmost best to keep around every tree we can,” Hartman told staff writer Christy Armstrong. But sometimes “best” is still not good enough. It is a law of nature. It is a predetermined chapter in the book of age.
So Cleveland bid farewell to a gentle giant. But others will take its place. This is what is done in a Tree City USA. This is what defines such conviction.
As the towering oak came down, Linda Hixson — daughter to Dr. Walter Peterson and sister to Blake — gathered a handful of acorns. They will be used to plant another tree.
Whether these seeds of new life take root is unknown. The same can be said for a newborn child whose fate lies in the protecting hands of others.
Only time will tell. And nature will take its course.
Both are gifts of love. Each is testament to an unseen power.
But talented poet Joyce Kilmer probably said it best when he offered, “... Only God can make a tree.”
And that’s reason enough to believe that from just a few acorns will emerge another miracle just as spectacular as the one at Oakmont.