'It's going out in the glory': 43-year-old backyard tree selected to celebrate Christmas in Madison Township

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Places across New Jersey have holiday trees up in their town centers, but in Madison, a blue spruce is serving as a Christmas tree for the second time in its 43-year lifetime.

Jim Butler looks up at the Madison Township Christmas tree with a sentimental feeling, because he knows it very well. It's because for 43 years, it was his tree.

In 1976, he and his now-ex-wife purchased the potted living tree from a garden center. It was their family tree that year at just 4 feet tall. The following spring he planted it, where it grew for the next 42 years.

Butler would decorate it every year as it grew to 38 feet, eventually resorting to using a slingshot to send strings of lights over the top of the tree.

"And it didn't always make it. It never made it the first shot," says Butler.

Earlier this year, people from the township came knocking and asked Butler if he might like to donate the tree to the town's annual holiday celebration. It wasn't an easy decision for him.

"I'll have to think about that," he said. "It's been there for 43 years."

He eventually agreed to it, and the tree was cut down and put up in the town center.

"It's going out in the glory. And the purpose of that tree was to be a Christmas tree when I bought it from a garden center. So it was was a Christmas tree initially and it is a Christmas tree one last time."

Now, there's a 7-foot youngster in the old tree's place on Butler's lawn.

"Some day I'll donate that in 40 years ... maybe not," says Butler.


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