This tree was planted long before Naperville began, and it has a rich history rooted right here in our town.
“The tree was on the Barnard-Miller homestead, of course Miller is my maiden name. They came in 1838, and lots of history. Lots of grand kids and great grandkids and great, great grandkids and they all played in the tree,” said Laura Zedrow, a Barnard-Miller descendant and former property owner.
And over time, the tree’s branches grew, as did its significance.
“That was always our family tree, and when I was a little kid there was an orchard right by there and it was always there, for shade, for squirrels and to collect acorns. It was just a very powerful presence,” explained Laura Jo Zedrow, Laura’s daughter.
The burr oak’s magnitude is felt beyond the Barnard-Miller family.
Naperville Parks Foundation member and Secretary Mary Lou Wehrli also admires the tree, “the Hobson Oak in my life has always been a feature on the landscape. The Hobson Oak has been an identifier on the road, when you’re traveling you know you’re arriving in Naperville, there’s the welcoming branches.”
But they’re now sagging lower, as some of the tree’s limbs are dying and the trunk is decaying, leading arborists to recommend its removal.
“It is a very sad, bittersweet decision that has had to be made. And not without a heavy heart and not without professionals being involved. And not without many partners in the celebration of it’s life,” added Wehrli.
A celebration that continues, as the Naperville Parks Foundation, along with many other partners, will be repurposing the wood into furniture, decorative pieces and jewelry. Some of its acorns will be germinated and later sold as saplings so the burr oak can live on for centuries to come.
“It was clearly a special tree. The neat thing about this project is all the stories that have come out, all the memories and stories and what it means to people. It means too much to too many people to have it just be chipped into wood,” said member of the Naperville Parks Foundation, Troy Cooper.
Meaning that is planted in the hearts of many.
“It’s a tree but then again it’s not just a tree. Only God can make a tree, but the memories are what we add to it,” said Don Miller, Laura’s son.
For more memories of the Hobson Oak, tune in to this month’s 630.
You can check HobsonOak.com for updates on the tree and the works created from its wood.
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.
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