PITTSFORD, Vt. (AP) - Vermont's towering state Christmas tree has meaning far beyond the holiday season for one family.
The Eugair family donated the 40-foot (12-meter) tree to the state as a tribute to their adopted son, John Paul Greene-Eugair, who brought the seedling home from a fair 26 years ago and helped plant it in their Pittsford yard. He later died of complications from cerebral palsy in 1995 at age 16.
The tree was cut down Tuesday, and a special tree lighting ceremony is planned for Thursday at the Statehouse in the capital city of Montpelier.
Marie Eugair poses with a photograph of her late adopted brother John Paul Greene-Eugair in Pittsford, Vt., on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in front a tree he helped plant 26 years ago. The tree was cut down on Tuesday to become Vermont's state Christmas tree. The Eugairs donated the tree in a tribute to the boy who died of complications from cerebral palsy in 1995 at age 16. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
"It so replicates my son because he would just enter a room and he would be just glowingly beautiful, just like this tree," said John's mother, Diane Eugair. "I've never seen a Christmas tree as beautiful and as tall and stately and righteous as this tree is. And everything about it replicates my son."
The family never pruned the tree and fertilized it maybe once, Eugair said.
She said she wanted to find a special place for tree to honor John on the 20th anniversary of his death two years ago. She asked her state legislator to help get it in the running to be the state tree, and it worked out this year.
On Tuesday, an excavation company donated its time and equipment to cut down the tree. It became a big deal, drawing neighbors, friends and a group of school kids who sang Christmas carols at the Eugairs' door.
"It's become an event. It's a townwide thing," said Republican state Rep. Charles "Butch" Shaw, who helped make Eugair's wish happen. "Everybody's very proud from the Pittsford and Brandon area to have this tree going to Montpelier."
Eugair watched from her porch and onlookers took cellphone videos as crews attached the tree to a crane, and then cut it down with a chain saw. Once cut, the tree was hoisted high into the air before being lowered slowly onto a truck, where the broad, thick tree was secured with straps.
Eugair said she plans to create a planter out of the tree's stump and will likely plant Johnny Jump Ups in honor of John.