PORTLAND, Maine — Frank Knight's decades-long battle to save New England's tallest elm served as an inspiring tale of devotion, so it is fitting that he will be laid to rest in a coffin made from the tree he made famous.
Knight, who died Monday at 103, had affectionately referred to the 217-year-old elm nicknamed Herbie as "an old friend." The massive tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease and was cut down two years ago.
Wood from the tree was made into a casket, a secret that was kept from Knight.
"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," said Deb Hopkins, a close friend who succeeded Knight as the town's tree warden.
Knight was already middle-aged and running a logging business in 1956 when he became the volunteer tree warden in Yarmouth, 10 miles north of Portland, just as Dutch elm disease was killing trees by the hundreds.
He realized he couldn't save the town's elms, so he focused his efforts on one tree, a giant with a canopy that could be seen from miles away.
When Herbie became afflicted, Knight couldn't bear to cut down the tree so he instructed workers to selectively prune away diseased limbs. Later, pesticides and fungicides were applied. For five decades, Herbie survived 14 rounds of Dutch elm disease, thanks to Knight's efforts.
Read the full story at MSNBC