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A Christmas tree with a story

By: Sioux Falls First UMC website and media reports

Dorothys Tree 2

Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim, courtesy of Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation.

Every year, First United Methodist Church, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, lights the majestic pine tree on Minnesota Avenue to usher in the Advent season. People gather to sing Christmas carols, enjoy refreshments and offer thanks under the sparkling lights of the beautiful Christmas tree. There is a unique story behind this 30 year tradition.

Driving along Minnesota Avenue, Dale Weir looked to his wife, Dorothy, and asked what she wanted for Christmas. She pointed to the 50-foot evergreen tree outside her car window and said she wanted that — but with lights and decorations.

So Dale obliged. He found out who owned the land and bought it, then decorated the tree and gave it to Dorothy.

That was 30 years ago. Today, the massive evergreen, adorned annually since 1992 with thousands of lights, stands as a Christmas symbol for Sioux Falls residents and visitors.

For those who knew the Weirs, it also honors a husband and wife who donated countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city.

"That tree symbolizes all the love they had," said Candy Hanson, president of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, who knew the couple through their philanthropic work.

"I don't believe she thought he would do it, but Dale would always rise to the challenge like that."

For the first few years, the Weirs kept it a secret that they were the ones decorating the tree. Eventually, they died — Dale most recently, in 2010 — and left the property to Sioux Falls First United Methodist Church. He also created the Dale and Dorothy Weir Endowment of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation to ensure the tradition continued.

The Weirs' nephew, Bill Weir, said many people wouldn't suspect that the couple had lived such a comfortable life.

The downstairs of their home was rented to a local teacher, and Dale Weir never drove a new car. The couple's few indulgences included eating out and shopping for antiques, said Bill Weir, 69, of Sisters, Oregon.

Dale Weir was more interested in helping others than living lavishly, Bill Weir said.

"He gave his resources where he felt it could give the most amount of people enjoyment and good," he said.

Story on KELO-land TV

Story from Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation

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