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Vancouver Mourns The Loss Of Its Old Apple Tree

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The city of Vancouver, Wash., is mourning the loss of one of its oldest and most beloved residents. Fondly referred to as a matriarch, she was born in 1826 and is survived by an untold number of descendants. Last week, the city held a virtual memorial to celebrate the life of an apple tree. And as with any good memorial, it began with a love story. Here is Clark County historian Pat Jollota.

PAT JOLLOTA: Young British soldier was given a party to say goodbye in London before he departed through the wilderness of Fort Vancouver. And at dessert, they had an apple. And his sweetheart took the core of the apple and handed it to him and said, when you reach your new home in the wilderness, should you ever think of me, plant these seeds.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The seeds were planted when the young lieutenant reached the frontier outpost. And over the years, the tree flourished.

BRAD RICHARDSON: It would have been a pretty stout, strong tree with a kind of a big bouquet of a canopy. And there would have been these bright green apples.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Brad Richardson, the executive director of the Clark County Historical Museum. He organized the well-attended remembrance of Washington's oldest and most famous apple tree.

RICHARDSON: This tree was the matriarch of the apple industry here in Washington state.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Today, the state produces more apples than any other in the country, by far. But keeping the storied tree alive the past 194 years wasn't easy, especially as Vancouver grew from a Hudson Bay (ph) trading post into a modern metropolis. The apple orchards near the fort were eventually chopped down to make way for, quote, "progress." When the axes came for the last tree standing, the community rallied behind it.

RICHARDSON: You see, you know, a freeway and roads and railroads all encircling just this tiny little tree that's left on this kind of postage stamp of land.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The old apple tree lived the rest of her life there, weathering storms and bearing fruit. She lived to a ripe old age and died only after a crack appeared in her trunk. But her descendants live on, thanks to the party the city threw for her each year.

RICHARDSON: The Old Apple Tree Festival would give cuttings for people to basically take a little piece of the old apple tree and plant it for themselves.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And those cuttings have grown into trees and now bear fruit. So while gone, she is not forgotten. The Old Apple Tree will continue to live on in the hearts and in the stomachs of the people of Vancouver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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