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Ann and Dr. Gene Stutsman pose for a photograph in front of the 70-foot-tall tree in their yard in Goshen on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. The Stutsmans have decorated the tree with Christmas lights for 28 years. This will be the last year because the tree is infected with a fungus and will have to be cut down. (Truth Photo by J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)

The 70-foot pine tree in front of Dr. Gene and Ann Stutsman’s Goshen home is pictured in this Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, photograph. The 28-year tradition of decorating the tree with lights will end this year as has a fungus and has to be cut down. (Truth Photo by J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)
28-year-old Christmas tree faces retirement

Posted on Dec. 8, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — The tree stands almost 70 feet tall, and 2,400 LED lights turn it into a beacon of Christmas spirit for passers-by.

Gene Stutsman has faithfully spruced up the tree in front of his house at 802 S. Indiana Ave. for 28 years.

“It started at about 20 feet when we first bought the house in 1985,” Stutsman said. “This has become a sort of Goshen landmark. I see a lot of people honking their horns when they see me putting up the lights.”

But this Christmas season will be the last for the tower of lights, as the tree has been attacked by a fungus known as cytospora canker.

The fungus occurs on plants that are slightly stressed and works from the bottom of the tree upward, according to the Colorado State University extension,

“They don’t have anything to kill it,” said Stutsman, who says that the fungus on his tree is from old age and pollution. Sometime around the end of January 2014, he plans to have the tree uprooted and turned into firewood.

“It’s sad to see it go,” he said, adding that it has been as special to the Stutsman household as it has for the community. He says the tree has cheered people up, ushering the Christmas spirit into those who see it.

The Stutsmans received a card from a mother who had gone through a divorce, thanking them for their decorations. “That Christmas tree lightened the load and raised (the family’s) spirits,” Stutsman said.

Stutsman says he might try to replace the tree, but he doesn’t think it would be nearly as spectacular as the tree he has been decorating for almost three decades.

“Someone else is going to have to pick up the pieces and keep the tradition going,” Stutsman said.