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Youngstown Christmas tree lit in memory of tree donor, who died Wednesday

Before his death on Wednesday, Patrick Kulewsky wanted to donate the tree in his front yard to be the city's Christmas tree. His wife Marylin, who died in 2018, had always wanted to decorate it. On Friday, they both got their wish.

YOUNGSTOWN — Hours after attending Patrick Kulewsky's funeral, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren trekked downtown for a second tribute: the lighting of the Youngstown Christmas tree.

Two months before his death on Wednesday, Kulewsky of Boardman called the city of Youngstown and offered the overgrown pine tree in his front yard to be used for the city's annual Christmas tree. The tree was lit Friday in his memory. 

Twenty-three Christmases ago, the 32-foot blue spruce was a little sapling in a barrel in the home of Debbie Becker, her husband Bill and their two children, Erin and Drew.

The family feared a live tree would exacerbate Erin's asthma, so they opted for a small tree in a barrel for their Christmas display that year. After Christmas, Debbie asked if her parents wanted the tree. They planted in their front yard of their Boardman home.

This year, the tree started to get overgrown and put cracks in the driveway, so Patrick had the idea to donate the tree to the city for Christmas. He called the Youngstown parks and recreation department in October to put his tree in the running. 

In November, Patrick received the call informing him that the city had chosen his tree.

“Dad was elated,” Debbie said. “He was so happy.”

The Christmas tree was also lit in memory of her mother, Marylin, who passed away on Nov. 27, 2018. Patrick and Marylin lived in Boardman for about 60 years, and Marylin’s wish was for the tree to be decorated for Christmas.

The blue spruce now stands 32-feet-by-20-feet downtown in Central Sqaure adorned with red ribbons and colored lights.

“So Mom has gotten her wish,” Debbie said. “The tree is lit.”

Debbie said her parents were very loving and generous. She remembers her father always saying: “Leave things better than you found it.”

“He did that in his life,” Debbie said. “He left this world better than he found it.”

Debbie's brother Mark Kulewsky and his wife, Sherri, were originally going to be the only family members downtown for the ceremony. Debbie had planned to stay home to watch the virtual ceremony with her father.

After his death on Wednesday, Debbie, Mark, their sister Kathy and their extended family attended his funeral on Friday and then went to the tree lighting ceremony in honor of Patrick and Marylin. The family flipped the switch together to light the tree and received a plaque for the donation. 

“Having the funeral today, this makes the whole day better,” Debbie said. “It is brightened our day and our spirits."

Ellen Wagner

About the Author: Ellen Wagner

Ellen Wagner reports on municipal services and budget cuts in Youngstown. She is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.
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