Tree trimmers in April, 2011 work to extend the Red Oak's life.

GARLAND (CBSDFW.COM) – When you drive down South Garland Road, you can’t help but notice that a piece of Garland history has been stripped away.

“It’s a living witness to all of what’s occurred in this area,” said arborist Steve Houser. “If it could speak, it would tell us some very interesting stories,” added Houser who spent the last five years trying to extend the life of one of the oldest living trees in North Texas.

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The once majestic Shumard Red Oak, however, was eventually reduced to a hollow shell after falling victim to a deadly pathogen. “It invades the root system of the tree, travels up to the base and eventually starts to rot and decay the root system,” explained Houser.

At its peak, the tree located at Garland Memorial Park, stood 70 feet tall and its branches spanned 95 feet wide. The Red Oak was designated a champion which means at one point, it was the largest of its kind in the state.

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“It was absolutely heartbreaking to lose it,” said Cecil Williams who is president of the Garland-Mills Cemetery Foundation. Williams said he received some 250 phone calls from distraught admirers of the Red Oak when the tree was being cut down. But Williams said he had no other choice. “We could not have it injure or kill anyone. It’s huge and it had cracks that were leaning over toward Garland Road,” he added.

The tree, estimated to be well over 200 years old, was threatening to topple over onto Garland Road. Houser says it might have lived another three years, if not for this summer’s devastating drought.

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The tree will be reduced to a three or four-foot high stump with a wood sealer on top, so visitors can count the tree rings or perhaps even sit on it while visiting a loved one buried at the cemetery.