The Laurel Christmas tree: For nearly 50 years, it's been its own shining beacon on a hill, a 65-foot white pine adorned with thousands of twinkling lights, a symbol of the simple joys of the Christmas season.
The tree never became part of the contemporary haggling over religious displays on public property because it was located in the front yard of the Kluckhuhn family home on Montgomery Street. Two generations of Kluckhuhns have lit the tree through the years, through war and peace, prosperity and recession.
Over the years, the tree became the emotional property of Laurel, an indelible element of Christmas memories for countless families.
But the once-majestic tree will not be lit this year. It started to rot after vandals set it on fire in 1996, Richard Kluckhuhn
. And last winter's blizzards may have been the death knell. The tree is missing about a third of its limbs, and the remaining branches are too weak to hold lights.
The family plans to have the tree removed in the spring. "We've just been reluctant about taking it down, because once it's down, it's gone forever," Kluckhuhn told the Leader. "Hopefully, next year, we'll have one in its place."
It won't be the same, though, and Laurel residents are nostalgic for the tree of their childhoods, a mainstay of holiday memories made with family members who are no longer with them. The tree is so popular it has its own
with more than 4,800 followers, and one Leader newspaper reader was even moved to write a poem about it.
The Laurel Historical Society chose the tree as the theme for this year's Christmas ornament, which has has outsold all others.
"After the storms of last year, we realized how popular it was and how important it was to the community, and so we wanted to commemorate that," Laurel Historical Society Executive Director Lindsey Baker told the Leader.
Many people who buy the ornaments are also moved to share their memories of the tree. There are a lot of memories to share.
"It's been around a long time, and a lot of people love it," Kluckhuhn told the Leader. "We're going to surely miss it."