Over in Wausau, Neil Olson won’t be taking down his Christmas tree now that Christmas is over. He hadn’t taken it down since his sons went off to the Vietnam War.
“Most of ’em don’t last,” Olson, 89, tells the Wausau Daily Herald. “The needles are kept on for a reason. It’s supernatural, I say.”
He put it up in 1974, vowing it would stay in place until all six of his sons came home.
Five of the kids live in Wausau. But the eldest, who is disabled, lives in Washington state and has been unable to make the journey back to Wisconsin at Christmas.
“I bet you if my sixth boy comes home, the needles will drop right off,” Olson said.
Olson’s sons range in age between mid-50s and mid-60s, though he couldn’t recall their precise ages. A few are named after kings, including James, John and the youngest, Rich, or Richard.
As the boys grew, married and had families of their own, the tree has remained as they moved on.
“It’s part of the furniture,” Rich said of the tree. “It’s like family now. I hate to take it down.”
Rich expects the dusty, possibly antique ornaments on the Christmas tree have gone up in value over the past four decades.
For all the doing-good stories that populate the news at this time of the year, it’s a shame someone couldn’t have stepped forward to help bring Olson’s son home.
Related: Give A Goat Your Old Christmas Tree (NPR).