The Severt family tree is on display every Christmas at the Merrill home of family matriarch Virginia Severt. Homemade ornaments featuring photos of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren make up the bulk of the decorations on her tree.
“It’s kind of fun to do the tree because I have lots of memories,” she said. “The pictures of my grandchildren and great grandchildren represent the gifts that God has given me.”
The family tree started in 1977 when her children gave her gifts of handmade ornaments with her grandchildren’s photos on them. That first batch is still easily identifiable on the tree because all are covered with sequins. Virginia and her husband, Matt, received batches of ornaments in five-year intervals for a time. Matt has since passed away, but the tradition continues.
Of each child, there is a baby photo, a kindergarten photo and one from 10 years old. The last photo of each child is their high school graduation photo. All 18 of Virginia’s grandchildren are now grown up, but the ornaments keep coming, now from the grandchildren and featuring her 27 great grandchildren.
“The grandchildren have been keeping it up,” Virginia said. “I have about 120 on there now. They (children and grandchildren) have all put a lot of work into the tree.”
The Severts are a close-knit clan; all five of Virginia’s children have been married for more than 40 years now and four of them live within five miles of her – the farthest away is in Marathon City.
“I’m fortunate that I get to see my grandchildren and great grandchildren a lot,” she said.
The homemade photo ornaments have now pretty much taken over Virginia’s tree.
“I haven’t used many of my other balls for a long time,” she said.
The tree skirt, given to Virginia by her sister Janey Beyer-Thums many years ago, features a variety of scenes involving children.