In every field of work or study there are a few people whose early contributions are foundational. Though he may not have agreed during his lifetime, Dr. Frank Bishop is that kind of person for Goshen’s modern urban forestry program. I think of him as the godfather of our urban forest.
I never met Frank. He died in 2000, long before I even thought about trees as a vocation. Nevertheless, I feel like I have slowly gotten to know him in my work.
I run into him quite regularly. Sometimes I’m surprised, but more and more often I’m able to predict when an encounter is about to happen.
The first time I ran into Frank was when I went over to Ruth Gunden’s house to look at a nice sized tulip tree in her back yard, which was yellowing. We talked about how to water it and care for it.
Ruth said she couldn’t stand the idea of losing the tree since it had been planted by Frank Bishop. I’d heard about Frank several times already, but this was the first of his trees that I met.
Ruth told me that Frank had been a biology professor at Goshen College until 1985, and that he had consistently been a student favorite.
I hear that line just about every time I’m told that I’m looking at a tree which Frank planted, or advised to be planted, or treated for some pest or other.
He must have been a very good teacher. He was also a very good plant treatment technician.
I encountered Frank at Shirley and Menno Friesen’s house. They invited me to look at the sprawling and beautiful purple beech in their front yard.
One of the central leaders of the tree seemed to be thinning, and I inspected down into the crotch of the tree to see if there was an obvious cause. There wasn’t, that I could tell, other than old age. Instead, there was one end of a quarter-inch copper tube in the bottom of the crotch. The other end of the tube came out of the trunk about a foot lower.
“Oh yeah,” said Shirley, “Frank Bishop drilled that in to drain water out.”
It was still working. It had rained the night before and there was no standing water in the tree.