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GMA Dave Trips: The Survivor Oak

An Inspirational Treasure Hidden in Plain View
Posted at 5:00 AM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 07:35:58-04

The mighty live oak. We're familiar with these huge trees all across Louisiana. It's a tree that can withstand hurricanes, flooding, ice storms, and even saltwater intrusion. Their massive canopy keeping us cool in the summer, and displaying a lush coat of green almost all winter long. There are many famous live oaks, many of those right here in Acadiana. But one, still bows down to all of us. The survivor oak.

The Survivor Oak

"If you're alive today, and you are, and I am, we've survived something," says Becca Begnaud, who helped get the tree registered with the Live Oak Society.

After being blown over by a hurricane over 100 years ago, the roots holding tight in the ground. The branches, turning and reaching for the sun. Like many of us who've struggled at times in life, we keep getting back up. Begnaud adds, "Initially it was just to help the oak and then symbolically, it helps us survive."

Becca Begnaud-Helped Register The Survivor Oak With The Live Oak Society

There's been a lot of loss in the world recently, and the tree has been watered by tears, but we're stronger. Begnaud says, "So sometimes after a tragedy, you lose a limb, you lose a human being, a loved one, you have a real bad illness. You get over it. You're never going to be straight and young and all. But you can still thrive after you survive. Isn't that the whole deal?"

Sarah Spell and Dwayne Fatherree-Married at the Survivor Oak

Sarah Spell, who has been to the tree often says, "This tree got lucky. We got lucky, I got lucky with my husband and the life that we've got." Sarah Spell and Dwayne Fatherree hold the tree in a special place in their heart too. Sarah knew the tree as a thinking spot. Dwayne knew it through working in planning and zoning

Spell says to herself, "How did this romance start?"
Fatherree sighs, "Wow We had known each other for decades. We had worked together, we were together in college."
Spell says, "We stayed in touch as friends for 20 something years."
Fatherree adds, "We kept in touch, we'd see each other every decade or so."
Spell says, "I was renting a home in Mouton Gardens which has beautiful trees like these."
Fatherree says, "She was having a little jam session at her house with she and her daughter."
Spell adds, "Dwayne had his bass we had a few people over having music."
Fatherree says, "We ended up playing some Ray Charles some Fleetwood Mac.."
Spell says, "It was raining that night."
Fatherree adds, "We ended up talking until 4 in the morning, and I was dating her from that moment on. It took her about three weeks to know she was dating me!"
Spell says, "That's how it all began."

Wedding Kiss.jpg
Sarah Spell and Dwayne Fatherree-Married At The Survivor Oak in 2018

They tied the knot here in 2018. Love, better late than never.

As much as the tree is hidden, most of you have passed right by without even noticing. It's off Ambassador Caffery near the railroad overpass. Whether it's triumph or tragedy, the Survivor Oak encourages us to keep carrying on.

Spell adds, "Life isn't comfortable, I have to remind myself that my survival is 100%"


While you are allowed to visit, it is private property. Begneaud Manufacturing has been nice enough to keep that corner around the tree landscaped. Please stay in the landscaped area. Also, because the roots of The Survivor Tree are sensitive, you're asked to park on the street. And of course, please don't litter or leave memorials at the tree. Keep it clean for everyone to enjoy.

Also, because the property is owned privately, Spell and Fatherree had permission from the owner to marry there. It's fine for people to pay a visit to the tree, but you won't be able to plan events or have weddings there.