Roadside Christmas tree decorator says this may be his last year

Jeff Bobo • Dec 13, 2019 at 1:37 PM

CHURCH HILL — Larry Williams and his helper, Sherry Bruce, put the final decorations on their roadside Christmas tree display Wednesday on Bradley Creek Road, hopefully not for the last time.

But it’s not getting any easier for Williams, who continues to struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

Williams and Bruce began in mid-October, and at last count they had decorated 106 trees, a new record, although they were fortunate that some new, smaller saplings sprouted up closer to the road over the past year.

They physically weren’t able to go as high up the hill this year and decorate the bigger trees like they’ve done in the past.

“The hill is just getting too steep”

For about 12 years, Williams has been decorating trees for Christmas on Bradley Creek Road near the Carters Valley Road intersection, but he doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to maintain the tradition.

“That old hill is just getting hard to stand on,” Williams told the Times News Wednesday. “This year Sherry (Bruce) helped a lot, and my sister Marlene. If it hadn’t been for those two, it wouldn’t have gotten done.”

Bruce and her husband attend church with Williams, and she encouraged him to keep the decorating going the past couple of years.

“We were talking last year, and he goes, ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to do it,’ ” Bruce said. “ ‘The hill is just getting too steep.’ I’m like, ‘Come on, I’ll help you.’ So I’ve helped him the last two years. It’s time-consuming, and like he said, the hill (is steep) and we’re not young.”

Williams added, “I’m thinking this year might be the last. It nearly killed me this year. That hill is so hard. My feet hurt. I had to leave it up to them. They did most of it. I’d love to do it again next year. Who knows — we might move it on down to the road to level ground.”

Cookies, cocoa, caroling and Santa

If this is the last year, however, Williams and his helpers want to go out in style.

Williams is inviting the public to stop by the display on Saturday, Dec. 21 from 6-8 p.m. for Christmas caroling, hot chocolate and cookies.

“Hopefully, somebody will stop by who can sing, because I sure can’t,” Williams said.

Then on Sunday, Dec. 22 from 1-3 p.m., Santa Claus will be at the tree display to meet children and pose for photos.

It rained during last year’s Santa visit, but more than 100 people stopped by anyway.

“It makes a difference in their life”

Williams said he does the roadside Christmas tree display because he believes the display lifts the spirits of people who drive by and see it.

Some trees are decorated in remembrance of various causes such as breast cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, honoring the military and firefighters, and remembering lost loved ones.

“Everybody expects it, and if you could just be here and listen to a couple of them when they pull in and tell you how much they appreciate it,” Williams said. “One girl gave me a donation of her last $5. I didn’t want to take it, but she said she was driven by God to do it too. You meet people who actually really enjoy seeing it, and it makes a difference in their life, for today anyway. It’s a good thing to know that you can do that.”

One motorist stopped and said he’d enjoyed seeing the decorations over the years and offered Williams a $100 contribution. Williams told the man they had already bought their decorations and were almost done for the year and didn’t want to take his money.

“He said, ‘You don’t understand. The Lord told me to, so I have to,’ ” Williams said.

Because the decorations for the year were already bought, Williams used to money to sponsor three needy children in Virginia and throw them a party with presents.

“Most people think it’s pretty”

“We just come out here every year to decorate a few trees and try to lift people’s spirits a little bit and show the real reason for the season is Jesus being born,” Williams said. “But we try to make everyone else smile a little bit. I just like doing it. I think it’s pretty. Most people think it’s pretty.”

He added, “I've had several people stop by and tell us how much they like it. I told them this would probably be the last year. They say they hope not, and that somebody else will pick it up. It would be wonderful if they did. I'd like to just drive by and look at it without having to do it. But, I enjoy doing it.”

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