What DuPage's Hobson Oak gently wept: A wooden guitar to be auctioned for charity

It lived for 250 years as part of a stately oak along Hobson Road near Woodridge.

Then it survived a fire in Oswego.

Now it's about to be auctioned - as a guitar, not some sorry slab of wood - during a gala Friday in Naperville.

The piece in question is the DeMont Verb, a handmade guitar fashioned by Nate DeMont and his employees at DeMont Guitars in Oswego, using wood from the historic Hobson Oak tree.

Its going price so far, in an online auction leading up to the 360 Youth Services Champions for Youth Gala on Friday evening at Embassy Suites in Naperville, is $1,850.

The material to form the Verb came to be when the Hobson Oak was cut down in November 2016. That's when DuPage County arborists determined the craggy bur oak was drooping dangerously close to a bike path just north of Hobson Road near Greene Valley Forest Preserve and Seven Bridges Golf Club.

As soon as it came down, the Naperville Parks Foundation launched a project to preserve the oak through art and charity that continues with the gala this week.

  A large bur oak used to stand just north of Hobson Road near Greene Valley Forest Preserve and Seven Bridges Golf Club between Naperville and Woodridge. DuPage County crews cut it down in 2016 when it became a safety hazard, and the Naperville Parks Foundation has been working with artists ever since to preserve its wood in ornaments, furniture, a guitar and even a few specially brewed beers. Bev Horne/ 2016

At least 25 artists, including woodworkers, furniture makers and brewers, got pieces of the tree with which to work by making a promise to donate their pieces to charity. As each piece is auctioned, by groups such as Loaves & Fishes Community Services in August or 360 Youth Services Friday night, proceeds are split between the host organization and the Naperville Parks Foundation.

At its Champions for Youth gala, expected to draw 400 people, the youth services group will auction 14 pieces that somehow incorporate the Hobson Oak, including the guitar, a "river table" made by Naperville neighbors and woodworking enthusiasts Dave Horton and Perry Martin, six seedlings from the original tree nurtured by the Morton Arboretum, two wooden ornaments, and several night stands or small coffee tables.

"It's so great that we can continue to incorporate the stories of what the Hobson Oak means to our community," said Jason Altenbern development director for 360 Youth Services. "It's a storyline within a storyline."

The body of the DeMont Verb begins to take shape in November 2017 out of wood from the former Hobson Oak, a 250-year-old bur oak near Naperville and Woodridge. Daily Herald file photo

The guitar's creation took a year and a half from when DeMont received the wood to when he and six others at his shop finished crafting it into the final product. Even the instrument's neck is made from Hobson Oak wood. But after the body was largely shaped, the studio suffered a fire late last year.

"It was just terrible," DeMont said about the blaze, which began about 20 feet from where the partially completed guitar was sitting on a cast-iron table.

The fire caused visible scars. But for an artisan who enjoys the history of local lumber, it became another line woven into the tale of the tree.

"The burn and rust actually embedded itself into the grain of the Hobson Oak guitar," DeMont said. "We sanded it down and refinished it. But in the grain, there's dark patterns where that happened. I just consider it part of the story of the guitar."

250-year-old oak tree will find a new life in art

County cuts down ‘Hobson Oak’ near Naperville

Breathing in new life Artisans are working to preserve Naperville-area tree for charitable causes

Naperville tree preservation project offers wood for artists

First auction set to sell artworks, saplings from historic Hobson Oak

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