Giant White Oak in Etobicoke recognized by provincial Heritage Tree Program

Long-time Etobicoke resident’s tree is a living witness to over 250 years of history

(DECEMBER 11, 2015, TORONTO, ON)  This morning, behind a house in Etobicoke, a ceremony took place where a massive white oak tree was recognized by Forests Ontario as part of its Heritage Tree Program. The white oak is estimated at more than 250 years old and over 24 meters in height.



Homeowner Tilly Kertesz, who at 94 years of age still walks outside daily to admire her beloved tree, charmed participants of the ceremony with personal stories and memories of her 60 years living in the house. A plaque and certificate were presented to Mrs. Kertesz by Rob Keen, CEO, Forests Ontario and Janet McKay, Executive Director, Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests (LEAF).

Mrs. Kertesz and her late husband Fred Kertesz, who became the sole Canadian distributer of PEZ Candy, bought their house in the 1950s after falling in love with the backyard tree. “We didn’t buy a house, we bought a tree,” stated Mrs. Kertesz. “Over the years it provided our family with many fond memories and a shady area to spend time in the summers.”

Forests Ontario’s Heritage Tree Program collects and tells the stories of Ontario’s diverse and unique trees and brings awareness to the social, cultural, historical, and ecological value of trees. Trees are nominated for recognition based on distinctness in size, form, age, rarity, or their connection with historically significant events, individuals, or locations. More about the Kertesz’ oak tree and the Heritage Tree Program can be read here.


From left to right: Rob Keen, CEO, Forests Ontario, Councillor John Campbell, Ward 4 Etobicoke Centre, Tilly Kertesz, Janet McKay, Executive Director, LEAF


“As a young nation, Canada doesn't stand out amongst other countries in regards to our building history, yet we have a rich culture of biological monuments expressed in our trees,” said Rob Keen. “In Toronto, we will continue these trees’ legacies by working with Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation to develop a seed collection program to grow seedlings. The heritage trees have demonstrated proven resistance to stressful urban growing conditions and perpetuating their seeds and genetic qualities will ensure we continue to meet the City of Toronto’s canopy targets.”

“It is truly an honour to play a part in commemorating Tilly’s oak tree,” commented Janet McKay. “Her story is amazing and her commitment to the care and protection of this magnificent tree is an inspiration to others.”

The great white oak came to the attention of LEAF when it was entered by Tilly and a friend into the “heritage potential” category of LEAF’s Great Toronto Tree Hunt, which ran for the first time in spring of this year. The tree was then nominated for heritage recognition by Edith George, a tree advocate and member of The Ontario Urban Forest Council, Cabbagetown ReLeaf and Denise Harris, long-time friend of homeowner Tilly Kertesz.

Anyone interested in nominating a tree as part of the Heritage Tree Program should contact Forests Ontario or visit for more information.





Shelley McKay

Director of Communications & Development, Forests Ontario

416.646.1193 ext. 232 (cell 416.619.0783)




Janet McKay

Executive Director, LEAF

416.413.9244 x17 (cell 647.883.5777)



About Forests Ontario

Forests Ontario is the voice for our forests. Working to promote a future of healthy forests sustaining healthy people, Forests Ontario is committed to the re-greening of Ontario through tree planting efforts on rural lands and in urban areas, as well as the renewal and stewardship of Ontario's forests through restoration, education and awareness. Visit or follow us @Forests Ontario.


About LEAF

LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest. LEAF undertakes creative public awareness campaigns to raise awareness about the value of urban forests and engages citizens in stewardship through education and planting programs.  Visit or follow us @leaf.


About Ontario Urban Forest Council
The Ontario Urban Forest Council (OUFC) recently celebrated 50 years as a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to the health of the urban forests in the province. The organization advocates for urban forest conservation, working with local urban tree organizations. Learn more at or follow @OUFC_Canada.