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Honoring a late husband: The story behind El Paso’s living Christmas tree

EL PASO, Texas -- The city of El Paso's living Christmas tree in San Jacinto Plaza was once a favorite source of serenity and shade planted in an Upper Valley couple's front yard.

ABC-7 revisited the woman who donated the tree to the city 22 years ago in honor of her deceased husband.

"It was halfway between their house and ours, right in this area here," said Corrine Boyce as she gestured to a corner of her yard near her next-door neighbor's property.

The once-fertile ground where an afghan pine grew 48 feet into the sky is now covered with xeriscaping.

"They had a daycare center next door and the kids would come over and knock on my door, asking, 'Can we have a picnic under your tree? Can we borrow your shade?'" she added, laughing.

For Boyce, who's in her 80s, the tree sprouted 20 years of memories after it was planted in 1978.

"The cats used to come and stalk the birds that were in the tree, and then the birds would dive-bomb them. It was fun to watch them," she told ABC-7 as she sat in the swing she used to share with her husband Chuck. He passed away in 1994.

"I don't sit out here like I used to. It's not the same without my husband nearby me," she said, her eyes turning sad.

In 1998, Boyce donated the tree to the city to use as a living Christmas tree in honor of her husband. ABC-7 was there as crews uprooted the pine and transplanted it into the eastern side of San Jacinto Plaza.

"He always wanted to decorate it, but of course there was no way he could have a ladder tall enough to decorate that tree," she said.

The Celebration of Lights has expanded over the years to include all of Downtown El Paso. Boyce says she remembers being close to the tree as it's lit for the first time of the holiday season.

"It was breathtaking," she said. "It just took my breath away, it was so beautiful."

Boyce is glad to share that joy with the rest of El Paso and she thinks her husband would agree.

"Oh, I'm sure he's very happy with it. I'm sure he is, since he couldn't decorate it, let the city decorate it for him."

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Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.

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