Replacement for 'Olympic Oak' to be Planted Wednesday

Jan. 29, 2008

SEATTLE - A ceremony will be conducted Wednesday (Jan. 30) at 10 a.m. on the south side of the University of Washington's Conibear Shellhouse to plant a replacement for an 'Olympic Oak' that once stood on campus.

The original oak tree was brought to campus in 1936 by rower Joe Rantz, a member of the Husky varsity eight that won the gold medal at the Berlin Olympic Games. Each gold medal winning individual or team at the 1936 Summer Olympics was given an oak tree sapling.

Rantz received the oak designated for the gold medalist in rowing and brought it to Seattle as he was the only member of the crew returning directly home.

The tree thrived for a long time on campus, but it eventually died after being moved to several different campus locations.

Rantz passed away in September and Wednesday's ceremony was organized by his daughter, Judith Willman. She worked to procure the replacement oak tree that will be ceremoniously planted outside the UW's shellhouse.

The new location is ideal as the building contains numerous trophies and memorabilia commemorating the proud tradition of Husky rowing. Also inside the crewhouse, hanging from the rafters of the dining room, is the shell the 1936 crew used to win the gold medal.

The Legacy of the Olympic Oaks
During Berlin's 1936 Olympic games, seedling oaks were awarded to all goldmedallists. Over the next 67 years, the U.S. team's 24 seedling trees weresubjected to difficult days of anti-German sentiment, neglect, and disease.Today, only a handful remain, each living up to the motto written on its potwhen it was presented: 'Grow in the honor of victory! Summon to furtherachievement!'

They were a 'gift of the German people.' A Berlin gardening firm thatsupplied oak wreaths for the gold medallists proposed awarding the trees.Although Adolf Hitler did not actually present them, the nickname 'HitlerTrees' stuck; many of the plaques and markers were removed during WWII dueto the association with the Hitler. The oaks were planted in special soil,treated against disease, and tended carefully during cultivation, accordingto a report at the time. However, the report said most were in a 'sorrystate' when released from quarantine back in America.

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