Frank Knight was a professional logger but earned his true legacy spending decades protecting New England’s tallest elm tree. But as all things must, the 217-year-old tree nicknamed “Herbie” eventually succumbed to Dutch elm disease. And over the weekend, 103-year-old Knight died as well.
But as a final tribute to this unique relationship between man and nature, Knight will be buried in a special casket carved from the 110-foot-tall tree that first sprouted in 1793.
“To have them together like that is a wonderful thing. I feel like Frank took good care of Herbie. Now Herbie will take good care of Frank,” Deb Hopkins, a close friend of Knight’s, told the Associated Press.
Back in 1956, Knight became the unofficial “tree warden” in Yarmouth, located about 10 miles north of Portland, Maine. At the time, Dutch elm disease was wreaking havoc on the local elm tree population. Even after Herbie became infected, Knight had local workers selectively prune the tree’s diseased limbs. Over the years, the tree reportedly survived 14 cases of Dutch elm disease thanks to Knight and the workers.