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Townspeople Worry About Fate of Tree That May Have Inspired Kilmer

September 26, 1988

MONTAGUE, Mass. (AP) _ Townspeople are worried about the fate of a rock maple tree they believe inspired the oft-memorized Joyce Kilmer line ″I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.″

The hospital on whose grounds the tree sits has announced it will close after 88 years.

″It would be too bad if something happened to that tree, but you never know with the hospital going and all,″ said Sister Mary Rosalie Morrison of the Sisters of Providence order, which owns Farren Memorial Hospital.

Local historians contend the grand old maple was the inspiration for the Kilmer poem memorized by millions of schoolchildren on Arbor Days past.

Other communities have made the same claim, but Montague offers as proof the many visits the young Kilmer paid to the village of Montague City to stay with his friend and spiritual adviser, the Rev. Edmund D. Casey, a Roman Catholic priest and chaplain at the hospital from 1910 to 1937.

Town lore has it that Kilmer visited around 1910 and sought shade beneath the huge tree eight years before he was killed in France in World War I at age 32.

The poet is said to have stayed in a large house on the north side of the hospital, according to Arthur Paulin, retired director of engineering, who worked at the hospital for 55 years. The house burned down in the 1940s.

″There was a big wraparound porch in front and on the side, and the tree shaded it. They say he sat there and that’s where he came up with it,″ Paulin said.

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