RIP Helen Keller's Oak Tree, Dead at 200 After a Long and Influential Life


On September 22, workers cut down a well-loved 200-year-old oak tree at Ivy Green, writer Helen Keller’s childhood home in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Keller, who lost both sight and hearing at 19 months, was once trapped in the tree during a storm until Annie Sullivan, her teacher and companion, carried her to safety. The tree has since become a landmark, especially for children who visit the house.

But as estate docent Lynne Weaver told Reuters, the oak—already “in poor health,” was permanently damaged when it lost large branches during a tornado in July.

Keller biographies, especially those written for young people, often tell of her rescue by Sullivan from the arms of the oak. Reuters reports:

“In one of the stories often told of their relationship, Keller and Sullivan decided to climb a tree after morning lessons and a walk on a summer day. Sullivan left Keller in the tree, telling her to stay put, while the teacher went into the house to make a picnic lunch.
When a fast-moving storm approached, Sullivan returned the frightened girl safely to the ground.”

The tree’s presence will be sorely missed at Ivy Green. While requests have been made for souvenir pieces of its wood, no decisions have been made as to what will be done with the remains.

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Image via Getty.

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