Mill tree lives on

Published 10:17 am Friday, December 10, 2010

The tree at the closed International Paper mill was put up Thursday and lighted for all to see again.

FRANKLIN—Since early December, Yvette Weathers has looked daily for the Christmas tree that for years donned the roof of the closed International Paper mill.

When the 32-year-old drove by the Franklin mill Thursday, she could hardly believe her eyes.

“I looked up and there it was,” said Weathers. “I was so excited.”

The mill manager and 30 or so folks still working at the plant, which closed earlier this year resulting in the loss of 1,100 jobs, decided to put up the tree, said IP spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth in Ticonderoga, N.Y.

“It’s been a longtime tradition to the Franklin community, to have the lights as a beacon at the holiday,” Wadsworth said. “We decided to honor that tradition and put the lights up this year. It was really something they (the remaining employees at mill) wanted to do. As I understand, they can be seen for miles.”

For Linda Wright, hearing about the tree from Weathers, who is her daughter, gave her hope for the community.

“I grew up with seeing that Christmas tree,” the 53-year-old Camptown woman said. “It was almost like a little tradition. We basically knew when it was going to be lit and us kids would gather in the back yard and wait until dark. For some kids who didn’t have Christmas trees, that was their Christmas tree.”

Weathers, who works security at the paper mill and lives in Franklin, had heard from a co-worker that the tree would be going up.

“When I saw the tree, it gave me hope,” she said. “Just to look up there and see it is the one thing to be happy about when you really don’t have anything to be happy about. There’s a lot of people struggling. That tree gives me hope for everybody.”