Climbing Tree R.I.P.


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Climbing Tree 005It’s gone. Fittingly, the news came from the kids. A freshman at VHS, who walks home even in the chilliest weather, sent out the alert on Twitter: “Climbing Tree R.I.P.” and the news flitted, like a bird in the tree, from cell phone to cell phone.

We all knew this was going to happen. We wrote about it in December, and it was clear to anyone who saw the 300-plus-year-old European Beech. It was looking pitiful, about as sad as the sawed-off but loyal stump in Shel Silverstein’s children’s book The Giving Tree.  But somehow we didn’t feel prepared for the hole in the landscape, and in our hearts. One girl said she was sorry she didn’t stop for one last climb when in the park with her brother on Sunday. Another wished she could have a piece of its remains. Yet another wistfully recalled congregating in its branches with her group of friends “every half-day in middle school.”

This mother of three felt flooded with  memories, too. I didn’t have anything like this amazing fagus sylvatica where I grew up, but I did have the vicarious pleasure of watching my kids grow up on Verona Park’s iconic climbing tree, and that’s almost as good. I can remember hoisting my girls up to the lowest branches and supporting them in their brief early attempts to climb. I blinked, and they became as agile as monkeys, my youngest still in his stroller, neck craned back and watching intently, waiting for his chance.  One of the monkeys fell once, landing  flat on her back on top of a hard root, and her caterwauling brought a young man running to help. Thank goodness that when my daredevil nephews visited and climbed to the very top of the tree–and I mean so far up that their bodies were visible against the sky, above the highest branches–they didn’t fall. That may be thanks to Father Mike Hanley, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Church, one of the flabbergasted spectators who happened to be walking in the park that day and surely murmured the prayer that saved them. I blinked again, and my oldest is heading off to college soon.

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Thanks for the memories, Climbing Tree.

For every pair of initials carved in the Climbing Tree, there must be dozens more stories. Add yours to the comment box below.

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Julia Martin Langan
Julia Martin Langan
Julia Martin Langan moved to Verona in 1989. A long-time journalist, she has been on the staff of Money, Sports Illustrated, Bride’s and Redbook magazines. Her articles on health and parenting appear in a variety of national publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Parents, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Self and Family Circle. She and her husband Greg have three school-aged children, and are members of Our Lady of the Lake Church. You can reach Julia at [email protected]


  1. Not only did I climb this tree and leave my initials,, but my children also have climbed this tree… Sad to see it go,,,Would be nice if they could replace it with another similar tree for generations to come

  2. This is very sad. I climbed this my whole 11 year old life! I hope they plant another one. Its very sad.

  3. Has the town or county considered preserving the trunk? It could be used to educate people on tree growth. Kids could try to count the tree rings to guess how old the tree was.

  4. I also remember this tree! I spent most of my childhood in Verona Park and my friends and I carved our initials our freshman year at VHS. Years later as I started my family, I would often take the kids for walks and point out the tree and all my memories I shared with my friends there. Sorry to see it go.


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