The Tree Lady: how Oakville saved a 260 year old white oak

Tree Lady

I’m not certain when it was that I fell to earth in a field on the north shore of Lake Ontario. My location is halfway between places known today as Toronto and Hamilton. Toronto was known as York when I got my start more than 260 years ago. Little more than a stone’s throw to the west of me, flows the 12 Mile Creek, also known as Bronte Creek.

In this past year, there was much hoopla about my country, Canada, closing out her 150th Anniversary of Confederation, but I was celebrating my 100th year while Canada was sorting out the details of what her Confederation would look like.

Tree Lady

Photo credit: Christopher Dias

Times have changed so greatly since then. Imagine being in a field for more than a century, serenaded with birdsong. Now I listen to the cacophony of motor vehicles thundering past me on both sides. About a dozen years ago there was talk of my demise in order to widen the road that ran right beside me. So heavy was the traffic on Bronte Road, that I was at risk of being removed in order to accommodate the road being widened. Scary times for me, and galvanizing times for my wonderful saviours.

Here I stand, tall and proud, full of gratitude for the many people who advocated for my pride of place and the history I represent. Wonderful people, mostly women, spearheaded fundraisers: Ms. Burnell, a feisty, very determined 86 year-old woman; Sarah Harmer, a Juno Award winning singer/composer put on a concert; Megan McLellan, president of Cellex-C International, donated $150,000.

Tree Lady

Photo credit: Christopher Dias


Money was donated by many citizens of Oakville, Bronte and Burlington; even Prince Charles advocated for my preservation. Once Prince Charles got on board, money flowed in from around the world. So, I must reiterate: I stand tall, proud and grateful.

Just recently, a photographer in Oakville/Bronte, Christopher Dias, has taken an interest in me. He has presented me in such a way that a member of an Oakville/Bronte based Facebook group, couldn’t help but see that there is more to me than can be seen by passengers in vehicles flying past me at breakneck speeds. I believe my gratitude and celebrity have made me a late bloomer. The observant member of the group, Jane Chartrand Webber Reid, saw that I have developed a spirit and has started to address me in a couple of ways. Sometimes it is The Lady of the Tree, or The Tree Lady. She has noticed that I am proud to stand up straight, hold my head high and extend my arms to support the beautiful canopy with which I have been blessed.

Tree Lady

Photo credit: Christopher Dias

Now that I have shed my leaves, you can notice my “good bones”. I hardly feel my age of 260-plus years. I don’t mean to be a showoff, but I cannot resist showing my gratitude for the good fortune bestowed on me by all the wonderful, life-giving support of so many people. Showing myself to you all, through the lens of my talented photographer friend, is my way of loving you in return for loving me.


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Readers Comments (3)

  1. Jennifer Neal says:

    Every time I drive by, I’m so grateful that my small pittance of support helped keep this “lady” in her place of birth!
    Thanks to Chris for his many photos of the “lady” and may he continue his loving relationship!

  2. Terri Jensen says:

    I absolutely love this “Lady”! So beautiful and majestic as she greets those that pass by her.

    I am thankful that she was saved so that the rest of us get to see her grace and beauty with each passing season.

    Thank you Chris for the photos and sharing this beautiful “Lady’s” story!
    I can’t wait to see more of them!

  3. Stuart Jaffray says:

    Well done Joyce !

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