CHARLIE’S TREE: Surrey family to replant ivy from fallen memorial

A Surrey pilot's tribute to those lost at war, created in 1919, fell onto Highway 1 over the weekend

A tree named after a First World War veteran fell onto Highway 1 near 200th St and caused a minor accident and traffic backup Saturday. The 300 year-old Douglas Fir acquired the name Charlies Tree

PORT KELLS — Cloverdale’s Mike Perkins was struck with sadness when he got the news that his grandfather’s First World War memorial tree fell over on the weekend.

But he said his grandfather, veteran Charlie Perkins, would’ve had a positive spirit about it.

“My grandfather was a realist,” Mike told the Now Tuesday. “If he was still alive he’d say, ‘That’s just nature doing its thing.’ He was a naturalist long before the term really existed.”

“Charlie’s Tree,” as the memorial is called, was his grandfather’s tribute to those lost at war when he returned home to Surrey in 1919 after serving as a pilot.

SEE MORE: Charlie’s Tree: A Surrey pilot’s tribute to those lost in war

The historic Douglas Fir tree was on the family property in those days, but today it was visible along the south side of Highway 1 just west of 192nd Avenue, though it was hard to spot when driving by.

In front of the tree, a white sign identified it as “Charlie’s Tree.” The ivy that Charlie planted decades ago had grown thick and climbed up the tree.

On the tree was a Canadian flag, a cross, a plaque that read “1919,” a wreath and other tokens. A few wreaths always seemed to pop up around Remembrance Day, though the family isn’t sure who brought them there.

It fell Saturday night (July 30), backing up traffic and reportedly causing a minor accident.

Mike said the tree’s demise was inevitable, seeing as it was topped about 50 years ago.

“I was a little surprised it came down as soon as it did,” he remarked. “But I drove by it (after it fell) and yep, it was rotten to the core.”

A common misconception is that Charlie planted the tree. The family says it was actually about 300 years old.

And interestingly enough, the memorial wasn’t actually the tree, Mike revealed.

“The memorial is the ivy itself,” said Mike. “That’s what my grandfather planted. So that’s saveable. I’m probably going to go do something about that in the next day or so. Get cuttings of it and replant it and keep it alive.”

Mike would like to see the ivy continue to grow at the site, and when the area is inevitably developed he hopes access can be created so the public can stop at the site instead of whizzing by it.

“We have some ideas of what we’d like to see there but I’m going to keep them tight to the chest for now,” he added, cheekily.

Not only did Charlie create the memorial site, he fought for it.

When plans were announced for the Trans-Canada Highway (now Highway 1), Charlie learned it was set to run right through his property – and the area including the tree.

Charlie rallied the community and contacted “Flying” Phil Gaglardi, head of the highways department at the time. As a result, the highway was built around it.

Though the tale goes that Charlie sat in front of the tree with a shotgun in an attempt to save it, his family insists that was not the case.

In 2005, then Fleetwood-Port Kells MP Nina Grewal lobbied the federal government to make the Charlie Perkins Tree a national historic site.

“If a national highway was diverted for this tree and what it represents, surely it is fitting to be a national symbol for Canada,” she said at the time.

Time will tell what becomes of the site, said Mike, but he’s encouraged by the community support since the tree fell.

“It feels great. For the longest time it didn’t seem like a lot of people knew about it,” he said. “If (my grandfather) was still alive he would have just said, ‘Well, that’s the way it goes,’ and done what I’m going to do. Replant the ivy.”


Just Posted

Sisters, sexual abuse and one Surrey family’s bond in new movie ‘Because We Are Girls’

Cloverdale’s Jeeti Pooni led effort to create the documentary, set to debut at festivals

Surrey Historical Society holds ‘memory social’ Sunday

Gathering will be a chance to offer, share stories

Drowning victim fondly remembered

Immigration consultant Jay Atienza Razon, who worked out of Newton, drowned in a kayaking accident March 29

Khan Michael Bourne, of Sechelt, shot dead in Surrey

Police say Bourne was found laying on the ground, with gunshot wounds

VIDEO: Surrey RCMP investigating after ‘sudden death’ of man found with critical injuries

Police say a man is dead after being found laying on the ground in the 13300-block of 114th Avenue

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Can you put your phone down for Mother’s Day?

#DiningMode campaign encourages people to leave the phone alone while eating

Most Read