updated 8/24/2004 5:16:05 PM ET 2004-08-24T21:16:05

It stood for 350 years, bearing fruit for a dozen generations, but strong winds finally brought down what is believed to be the oldest pear tree in Scandinavia.

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Since the mid-1600s, the massive pear tree had helped feed the people outside Enkoeping, an hour’s drive west of Stockholm.

On Saturday night, as Alf and Eivor Svantesson were going to bed after watching Sweden’s Carolina Kluft win the Olympic gold in the heptathlon, the tree fell outside their house in an ear-splitting crack.

“It sounded like gunshots at first,” Eivor Svantesson said. “We thought someone was saluting the gold.”

As they looked out the window, they saw their beloved tree had fallen. Strong winds had been blowing in the area in the past few days, Eivor Svantesson said. The trunk had rotted from the inside, she said.

“It feels very empty now,” said Svantesson, 74. She has lived in the house since 1959. “As a child, I played and hid in that tree, and my children and their children have as well. This whole area was known for that tree.”

Her husband, Alf, said a professor from Uppsala University, Anton Nilsson, dated the tree in 1989. It was widely believed to be the oldest of its kind in the Nordic countries — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The tree measured 14 feet in circumference and was about 20 feet tall, Alf Svantesson said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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