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Monday, December 7, 2015

The Story of our City's Christmas Tree

The community Christmas tree at the Holiday Walk on 12-6-15. 
The trees in our yard do so much more than provide beauty and shade. They serve as playgrounds for children. They mark the changing of the seasons and the passing of time. And while their autumn splendor means raking later, they still serve—as an excuse to be outside tending to the earth, despite how we might complain.

As is the cyclical nature of all things, trees get old. They grow too big for their space. Their roots disturb pipes and their branches disturb power lines. They get sick. After years of standing tall, they fall. Nothing lasts forever. As is true for the Donnelly family tree.

But many trees prove useful, even in the end. Their wood is used for fire, furniture or works of art. Branches are used for kindling, stumps turned into mulch. And then there is the Donnelly family tree. Its final days proved extra special—decorated and lit up for hundreds to enjoy it proudly serves as the City of Fort Thomas’s Christmas tree. 

Michael Maushart poses in front of the pine tree gifted to his grandmother as a way to mark his 1st birthday and his grandmother's 49th. 

In July 1983 Nancy (Donnelly) Maushart and her husband Don celebrated their first child’s first birthday. Five days later Maushart and family celebrated her mother’s 49th birthday. To mark the occasion the Mausharts gave Nancy’s mother a pine tree, purchased for $35 from Highlands Garden Center. They planted the tree on the corner of Nancy’s parents’ yard on West Villa.

At the time four of Maushart’s younger siblings still lived with her parents. As the tree grew it served as a backdrop for so many pictures—first day of school, Easter and Halloween. It was decorated at Christmas and as it grew, the Donnelly family grew. It marked the passing of time.

The Donnelly family pine tree on West Villa.
The City of Fort Thomas removed the tree November 30.
“Fast forward 32 years and our pine tree has grown far too big for its corner of the yard on West Villa,” Nancy Maushart says. A couple years ago Maushart suggested to her sister, Kelly (Donnelly) Houp, that the family donate it to the City of Fort Thomas for use as a Christmas tree. Houp and her husband, Robert, now live in the house on West Villa. The couple agreed it would be a perfect ending for such a celebrated tree. The City of Fort Thomas took the tree down November 30.

A family friend took a snapshot of the tree as it was being hauled away.

The Houps returned from their honeymoon late last night so they, unfortunately, missed the tree lighting. But many Donnelly family members were there. “It’s gorgeous,” Maushart says. “We never did anything to it, to trim it. That’s just how it grew.” 

The Fort Thomas Garden Club decorates the City’s tree every year. “Somehow the women from the garden club knew that my mom used white lights and red bows to decorate the tree for many years,” Maushart says.

Lucy Larcom once said, “He who plants a tree, plants a hope.” For the Donnellys, that hope rested in family. And it’s a hope that has proved fruitful.
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Maushart recently suggested that her sister, Kelly Houp, and her new brother-in-law, Robert, plant a new pine tree to mark their recent wedding—a new hope. And perhaps, 32 years from now, that tree can be donated to the City of Fort Thomas, too.

“May all who view the Donnelly Christmas Tree over this Christmas season feel joy that has existed in our home on West Villa over all these many years,” Maushart wrote on social media.

FTM file. 


  1. Wow! What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You beautifully reflected the essence of our family and the tree. I cannot thank you enough! Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone!