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Communities remember loved ones with memory trees

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As the season turns festive with tinsel and lights, many communities take a moment amid their Christmas preparations to remember lost loved ones.

Memory trees are a common holiday tradition in St. Lawrence County, with lights lit in memory of those who have died.

A young blue spruce laden with more than 100 names grows outside the Richville village hall. Each light costs $1 — money that will be donated to charity.

The tree is lit every night, and occasionally people will visit it throughout the holiday season to remember their loved ones.

“People come. You’ll see the tracks in the snow,” said Lila M. Youngs, the village library manager.

Mrs. Young memorialized members of her family from Missouri, where she grew up.

“It’s a nice way for me to remember my family when I’m far away from home,” she said. “A lot of people who are on the tree are friends, neighbors and acquaintances.”

Richville has had a memory tree of its own for only the last four years, but other communities have been at it much longer.

More than 200 people add names to Colton’s memory tree, which is run by the Amvets Auxiliary.

Treasurer Mary A. Long said the tradition has been going on for so long that nobody can remember how many years ago it started.

What they do remember is those who have died, no matter how long ago. The tree adds a somber note of reflection to the otherwise merry Christmas season.

“We never do forget, and it just makes us feel a little bit better, I think, to participate,” Ms. Long said.

Amvets members will be selecting a tree next week, and are accepting names throughout December.

Pyrites, Norfolk and other communities also have trees of their own.

Canton’s tree is a large pine standing in the village green, lit during the annual Holiday of Lights festival. It currently holds 87 names, with more being added regularly.

“I think it’s become a real tradition in the village of Canton,” said Joyce A. Lilholt, a member of the village Holiday of Lights Committee.

Each Christmas, more names are added to the tree.

“We get a lot of new ones as people pass away during the year,” Ms. Lilholt said. “It’s a way to honor the people that they loved, and that we’ll miss this year.”

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