Shelton family bids final farewell to their tree

The Vargoshe family of Shelton decided to pass on seeing their tree taken down and turned into lumber and mulch, but they did spend a weekend in New York City admiring the decorated Norway spruce while it was still standing.

John Vargoshe, his wife, Louise, and their sons, Nathan and Noah, were able to visit Rockefeller Center for a weekend between Christmas and New Year’s. “We went and said our good-byes,” John Vargoshe said.

One highlight was when Nathan and Noah, joined by friends their age from back home, skated in the Rockefeller Center ice rink in front of the 76-foot-tall tree that had come from their Kazo Drive front yard.

“They skated under the tree,” John Vargoshe said.

The family also was treated to tickets to the annual Christmas show at nearby Radio City Music Hall, featuring the dancing Rockettes.

Mingling with the public

At times, they just spent time in Rockefeller Center looking at the tree and interacting with other visitors. “We had casual conversations with many people around the tree,” Vargoshe said.

The last day to view the tree was Jan 7. It then was taken down and milled into lumber to be donated to Habitat for Humanity for a home being built in Fairfield County. Extra tree parts were turned into mulch.

Vargoshe said Rockefeller Center head gardener Eric Pauze, whom they had gotten to know during the selection process, told them some families who donated past trees had a tough time watching their tree be dismantled and cut up.

Fun and emotional experience

For the Vargoshe family, the whole experience of donating the tree has been emotional as well as thrilling.

“It’s been quite a thing,” Vargoshe said. “For the family, it was a lot of fun. It was great for the town and great for the family.”

He said friends and associates would send them photos from their visits to Rockefeller Center, standing in front of the tree, accompanied by positive comments.

At the same time, it had been difficult to see the tall evergreen cut down and removed from their yard — even it was to soon be shared with millions of people.

The tree played an integral role in their lives through the years, family members have said.

All that remains now in their front yard is a tree stump. “We do kind of miss the tree,” Vargoshe said. “It’s empty now, and we’ve sort of lost some privacy. But it will be replaced.”

Rockefeller Center will plant a new tree for the family in the yard this spring. Pauze will take them to a nursery to pick out a tree that will be planted on their property.

Additional landscaping will be done for them as well, if they should desire.

‘Otto’s house’

The Vargoshes have heard from many distant relatives and old friends during the experience. Articles on the tree appeared around the country.

Some people have recognized their name from a former egg farm in Huntington owned by a Vargoshe relative. They’ve learned more about the farm during the process.

The family also has discovered connections they didn’t realize existed, such as when a co-worker of Louise Vargoshe told her she had visited the Vargoshe family’s home when it belonged to a previous owner.

“You live in Otto’s house,” the co-worker said, in a reference to the Luchtenberg family that is believed to have planted the evergreen in the 1950s after using it as a live Christmas tree for the holiday season.

The Vargoshes moved into the house in 1992.