In stepped the Biltmore House in Asheville with an elegant and fitting solution.
Every year, the popular holiday attraction needs a tall Norway Spruce for its front lawn display and tries to select a tree that, for one reason or another, will likely have to be removed. The tree farm Biltmore House uses for the Christmas trees inside the home knew about Gray's tree and suggested that it be considered to grace the attraction's front lawn, said LeeAnn Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the attraction.
After sending a team to look at it, the Biltmore House bought the tree from Gray, trucked it down the mountain and decorated it with 45,000 lights.
"It couldn't have turned out better, I don't think," said Gray, who also planned to drive down the mountain with a daughter and two grandchildren Saturday for his first trip to the Biltmore House and one last look at that special tree.
Joseph and Evelyn Gray were together almost 65 years, if you count the three years he courted her. They had four children. They spent the summers at Roan Mountain State Park. Joseph Gray worked there at the foot of 6,285-foot tall Roan Mountain about 30 miles southwest of Johnson City, Tenn. Once visitors stopped coming in the late fall, they headed to the house they had built just down the road.
Evelyn Gray loved Christmas. She would pull out her special decorations and lights as soon as her husband found the live tree he liked.
"She would work on it for a week, just to get it the way she wanted it," her husband said. "It was pretty when she got through with it. She had lights, everything on it."
Then Joseph Gray put the angel on top that would watch over everything up until the huge family gathering on Christmas Day. The tradition went on for decades, until Evelyn Gray just didn't feel well enough to decorate.
"She got to where she was sick and she could hardly fool with it. We bought one, all you had to do was bring it out," Joseph Gray said.
When Gray gets to the Biltmore House and sees his old Christmas tree once again decorated for the holidays, it will bring out a smile in him.
"I still like the live trees the best," he said. "It seems more like Christmas with the live tree."