For more than 25 years, David Spencer has lit with strings of lights a now 70-foot spruce tree in his Fourth Street front yard on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and he'd keep it lit until 12 days after Christmas.
Spencer died Sept. 11, 2002, from emphysema and heart troubles at age 83, said Bill Rogers, whose mother was married to Spencer for about 30 years. On Saturday, Mayor Chuck Grobe presided as Spencer's tradition was continued for the second year without him.
"It was his thing," Rogers said. "He really felt like people appreciated it."
The people of Hayden greatly appreciated Spencer's holiday cheer, Grobe said with a smile, but perhaps the people who appreciated him most were the folks at Yampa Valley Electric Association, who received bill payments of up to $400 for powering the tree's 900 lights.
Everyone appreciated Spencer's holiday spirit so much that the community began pitching in money -- a few dollars here, a few dollars there -- to help cover the electric bill, and even YVEA supplied a crane to help put up the highest hanging lights. This year, Wagner Equipment provided the crane, which Grobe and town Trustee Richard "Festus" Hagins used to put up the lights last week.
The town of Hayden Recreation Board began helping with the project three years ago, and just in time, as it seems the tree has grown faster over the past few years, Grobe said.
Rogers' wife, Montine, speculated it must be because the tree gets so much love from the town. She recalled one summer when Spencer turned on the tree for a night so his daughter could see it as she flew into Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
Hayden resident Arlin Collins also remembers that day.
"I remember walking in town having sort of a blah day and walking around that corner, seeing that tree, and I thought it wasn't such a bad day after all," Collins said.
At Saturday's tree-lighting ceremony, which was attended by about 100 people, Grobe thanked everyone for coming and gave thanks to the late Spencer.
The corner of Fourth Street and Jefferson Avenue, where the tree stands, is now affectionately known during the holidays as "Spencer Corner."
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