Suzanne Chinatti drove five hours from her home in Falls Village, Conn., then waited four hours in a steady snowfall to see a tree come down.

It was a tree she had never seen, a tree to which she had no tangible connection.

But she had read about the tree, which was nicknamed Herbie and listed as the largest American elm in New England. She had read how Yarmouth’s longtime tree warden, Frank Knight, struggled for 50 years to keep Herbie alive with strategic prunings and yearly inoculations while it battled Dutch elm disease.

And she read how the entire town supported Herbie, and Knight, through it all.

“I just thought being here would be a rare, magical moment. How often do you see a 200-year-old tree come down?” asked Chinatti, 42. “It was amazing to me, hearing how much time Mr. Knight spent on this tree, how the whole community supported it. In most places, they just cut down trees and build. Herbie’s story is inspiring.”

Herbie’s story, which drew national attention, began a new chapter on Tuesday, when the 110-foot-tall elm was cut down by workers from Whitney Tree Service of Gray around 11:40 a.m.

In the coming months, Herbie’s wood will be made into mementos and other objects that will be sold to help pay for the planting of new trees.

Knight, who’s 101, turned out to see Herbie’s final upright moments. He was sitting in a Ford Explorer about 100 yards away when the trunk came down with a thud. Workers pulled the tree down with heavy cords after carefully notching the base with chain saws for more than an hour.

The thud elicited cheers from the crowd of 40 or so, many of whom had waited in the cold for more than four hours and were covered by wet snow.

As the main part of the trunk – about 40 feet long and 20 feet around – lay on the lawn of Irving and Donna Felker’s house on East Main Street, two Whitney workers helped Knight walk up to it.

Knight looked at the stump, bigger around than most dining room tables, and patted it firmly a couple of times. Debra Hopkins, Yarmouth’s current tree warden, gave Knight a hug, then a kiss on the cheek. The crowd gave Knight a few cheers as snow continued to fall.

“Frank, did you ever think you would see Herbie in this position?” asked Peter Lammert of the Maine Forest Service as he prepared to count the tree’s rings.

“No. I thought I’d be in this position first,” said Knight, getting a chuckle from the crowd. A few minutes later, someone yelled, “Congratulations Frank, you won.”

Standing ankle-deep in sawdust, Lammert made a preliminary count of the rings and declared that Herbie was 212 years old. A more precise count will be done later, using magnification indoors, Lammert said.

Knight had estimated that the tree was 235 years old.

When asked if he was sad to see the tree finally come down, Knight said no.

“Nothing lasts forever. We had a great, beautiful relationship, and I thank God every night for it,” he said.

Also in the crowd Tuesday was Donna Felker, 68, who grew up in the house closest to Herbie. For years, Knight has told people that it was Felker who named the tree Herbie, when she was a little girl. She doesn’t recall that but says there’s no way she’d dispute Knight.

“That tree has been a big part of my life for a long time,” Felker said. “The tree was part of a lot of people’s lives. I’m sure all kinds of people will want a piece of Herbie.” Felker is serving on the town committee that will have Herbie’s wood made into various objects.

Some of the wood will be made into inexpensive items, such as bookmarks and little wooden “cookies,” for $5 or so apiece. Some will be given to woodworkers, who will make more elaborate items – bowls, for instance – that can be auctioned off.

Money from sales of Herbie products will go to a trust that has been created to help pay for the planting of trees all over Yarmouth.

On Tuesday, Barbara Parkhurst, a 37-year Yarmouth resident, captured the moment in pictures for the town’s historical society. She said the fact that the tree stood in the same spot on East Main Street for more than 200 years gave it a unique place in history.

The tree was on what was once the road to Brunswick, so Parkhurst wondered aloud if Herbie might have seen Joshua Chamberlain – Brunswick resident, Maine politician and Civil War hero – passing by once or twice.

“Who knows what Herbie has seen?” she asked.

Parkhurst has seen a steady stream of well-wishers visit Herbie since Knight and Hopkins decided last summer that the tree, after years of prunings that drastically reduced its size, would finally have to come down.

People have lined up to have pictures taken with the tree, while others have pinned “thank you” notes and ribbons on its trunk.

Herbie’s removal had been scheduled for Monday, but a heavy snowstorm forced it to be postponed.

Dick Knight, Frank’s 68-year-old son, thought the fact that Herbie got one more day to stand tall because of a snowstorm was a fitting “last hurrah.”

“After all the planning by humans about how and when to take Herbie down, who had the final say?” asked Dick Knight. “Mother Nature.”

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