, Gloucester, MA

December 28, 2012

'Living Tree' shines in Lanesville

By Allegra Boverman
Staff Writer

---- — The evergreen tree at 47 Langsford St. in Lanesville started its life at 41/2 feet tall, tucked inside on the porch at the home of Billy and Jane Martin during Christmas in 1975.

The tree was then planted outside and decorated.

Now, fast forward to December 2012, and this “living tree,” as the family calls it, now stands over 40 feet tall outside the home and is dramatically lit each year, with a star at the top.

Neighbors started noticing. And as the tradition continued, Greg Verga, Billy Martin’s son-in-law, noted that, “the neighbors look forward to the lighting every year and cars driving along this busy street stop for a look, as well.”

Martin knows his neighbors really enjoy it, “so I try to keep doing it every year,” he says.

As the tree grew, it also became more meaningful. Verga said Martin has told people about how a photo of the tree meant so much to one neighbor that it was included in her mother’s casket when she passed away — and of how, during one very windy Christmas, when most of the tree’s ornaments blew away, neighbors who found them “scooped them up and dropped them off.”

In 1976, only one set of lights was needed to decorate the tree. Now, over 20 sets of lights are needed.

“Here we are, 37 years later using over 20 sets of lights and needing more,” Billy Martin says.

For the last several years, Nick Curcuru, a former student of Martin’s from the Gloucester High School Electrical Shop, has volunteered to help decorate the tree. Curcuru, 25, took every class that Martin, also an electrician for over 43 years, taught at GHS, and went on to become a journeyman electrician himself, studying for his masters license, and has a bucket truck he can bring to help hang the lights ever higher.

Martin taught for 23 years at the vocational technical program. Martin joked that he thinks the bucket truck is no longer big enough for the tree. “Next year, we need some bigger apparatus,” he said, because his 28-foot extension ladder is now not tall enough for the tree.

Martin says his wife doesn’t like him climbing up the ladder anyway.

“My wife doesn’t like me up in the tree. I love doing it but she has a fit,” he said.

Martin said that recently, Curcuru “convinced me to change to LED lights.”

“We’re going green here in Lanesville,” he said.

Before he switched to the new lights, he added, the old ones were using 22 amps of electricity.

“That’s enough to heat a couple of rooms in your house,” Martin said. “When I switched to LEDs, I checked again and now it’s a half an amp, almost nothing. Nick was right.”

Planning is already in the works for next year. Martin said he recently cleaned out Walgreen’s of its full stock of LED lights. And at the top, the tree’s star shines brightly — its presence thanks to Ringo Tarr and Dana Griffin, a GHS Carpentry Shop instructor.

“Thank God, the star still works; it’s way up there,” said Martin.

Allegra Boverman is the Gloucester Daily Times’ photo chief. She can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3448, or at