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The Johnette Oak- Did You Know?

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By Mia Freneaux

    When Johnette “Patsy” Murray saw the Leon Odom property on Sullivan Road back in the early 60’s, she knew she had found home.  The property boasted several beautiful live oak trees, and she fell in love with it and has lived there ever since.  Her husband John, Central’s first pharmacist, came to Central in 1955 to open Murray’s Pharmacy, a landmark across the street from the present Central Middle School and next to the W.S. Edwards store.  In 1971, John moved it across Hooper Road to the Four Corners Shopping Center.  Murray’s Pharmacy also served the public with Central’s first Soda Fountain.  Many residents remember running across the street after school to enjoy a treat there, and many also remember working their first jobs behind its counters.  John married local girl Johnette Carpenter in 1956, and they raised their family in the original 4 room house on the property.  In 2007 Patsy decided to pursue getting the largest live oak at the front of the property registered.  She contacted Coleen Landry, chairperson of the Live Oak Society of the Louisiana Garden Club Foundation, which was founded in 1934 by Dr. Edwin Stephens to promote the preservation of live oaks across the South. After filling out the required paperwork and meeting all of the criteria, the huge tree was officially registered.  Patsy wished to call it the “Murray” Oak in honor of the family, but through a mistake in the process it was officially dubbed the “Johnette Oak”.  This is fitting, since she was the one who initially realized the worth of this beautiful tree.  The “Johnette Oak” is 15 feet in girth, and has a spread of over 100 feet.  Pictures cannot do it justice.  Patsy is not sure how old it is, but a four foot in diameter tree blown down during Hurricane Katrina had 196 rings in it.  Readers can do their own math, but an estimate of over 500 years is probably very conservative.  Patsy is tremendously pleased that her live oak is appreciated and hopefully protected from progress’ destructive ways.  As she says, “There’s nothing I’d rather preserve than Central.”

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