Neil Olson, a Wausau, Wisconsin man, has had his Christmas tree up for 40 years, and he refuses to take it down.
Olson first put up the Christmas tree in 1974, when two of his sons went off to fight the Vietnam War. After they left, Neil vowed never to take down the tree until all six of his children could come home for Christmas at the same time.
Forty years later, Neil Olson’s Christmas tree is still standing.
Though both of Olson’s sons survived Vietnam, Neil’s oldest son was injured. His resulting disability has not yet made a return trip back to Wisconsin from his home in Washington state for Christmas possible.
Neil Olson’s Christmas tree — which is a real tree and not a fake one — still has the ornaments and lights Olson originally put on it in 1974. Amazingly, the tree’s needles have yellowed somewhat, but haven’t yet completely fallen off.
Neil Olson commented on the Christmas tree’s amazing endurance.
“Most of them don’t last. The needles are kept on for a reason. It’s supernatural, I say. I bet you if my sixth boy comes home, the needles will drop right off.”
Five of Olson’s sons live in Wausau, Wisconsin. Neil’s youngest son, Rich Olson, says that the Christmas tree has become a family fixture.
“It’s like family now. I hate to take it down.”
Though the needles of the tree are in amazing condition for a 40 year-old tree, the lights are a different story. Neil says he hasn’t turned on the lights since the tree was first put up in 1974. The large, old-fashioned, multi-colored lights are well over 100-years-old.
“It’d just blowup on me. All that dust on there, it’d be like an atomic bomb.”
Neil Olson, 89, is a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. Several of his sons served in the military, including Barry, the one who was injured in Vietnam. Barry remains in touch with the family, and Neil holds out hope that one day his sixth son will make it home for the holidays.
When Olson was interviewed by a local newspaper, he recalled past Christmases with his boys when they were young.
“I can see ’em sitting around there yet, opening presents…”
And of the future? What would Neil Olson like to do with his boys if they do finally all get home for Christmas one year?
“Sit with the boys, drink a couple beers, talk about old times and go to bed.”
And of course, Neil Olson would then allow himself to take down the Christmas tree.
[Image via AP/Daily Herald and Maroon Weekly]