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Family Tree Planted 30 Years Ago is Courtyard Centerpiece

Tree donors Lydia (left) and Keri Hollander with Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum
Vanderbilt Museum photo

Keri and John Hollander wanted their first family Christmas tree to be special. They bought a live, six-foot spruce, built a stand for it, and put it in their living room in Centereach. After the holiday, they decided to plant it in their front yard – temporarily, Keri said.

The year was 1989. Until a few weeks ago, the tree, now 40 feet high, was still growing in their yard. Today, it lights up the courtyard at the Vanderbilt Museum and complements the elegantly decorated rooms of the Vanderbilt Mansion.

For many years, the Museum was able to harvest large pines and spruces from the wooded areas of the 43-acre Eagle’s Nest estate, home to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.

In September, the Vanderbilt announced it was seeking a local family that would be willing to donate a sizeable tree from its own property for this year’s Tree Lighting celebration, traditionally held the Saturday following Thanksgiving. The Museum agreed to cut it down and transport it to the Mansion.

Keri Hollander responded and offered to donate their now-massive, 30-year-old family spruce. She and her daughter, Lydia, attended the Tree Lighting event on November 30 and flipped the switch to light the tree for the first time. More than 1,100 people attended the event.

Recalling the day they bought the tree, Keri said, “My husband, John, suggested we purchase a live tree that we could plant in the back yard instead of a cut tree that we would throw out after Christmas, and then have to vacuum up pine needles until Easter,” she said.

“It was pretty big and full when we purchased it. It took us several hours to get it out of the car, build a stand for it, position it in the living room, and decorate around the root ball. But it was a beautiful Christmas tree and we were proud of ourselves for our ‘smart,’ environmentally aware investment. We are overjoyed that our tree will be enjoyed by many and that it will end the way it started, as a family Christmas tree.”

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