Father vows to keep Christmas tree up until all 6 of his veteran sons return home — 44 years later, the tradition ends

Hope Schreiber
·Writer
Rich Olson said his father, Neil Olson, vowed to keep a Christmas tree up until all of his family was under one roof again. (Photo: WSAW)
Rich Olson said his father, Neil Olson, vowed to keep a Christmas tree up until all of his family was under one roof again. (Photo: WSAW)

After 44 years, a long-held tradition in the Olson family will be coming to an end.

In 1974, dad Neil Olson put up a Christmas tree after his sons went to war, and he vowed he wouldn’t take it down until all six brothers were home in Wausau, Wis. His youngest son, Rich Olson, told WSAW, that he and the remaining members of his core family are going to say goodbye to the 44-year-old Christmas tree after one more lighting.

“He was sentimental, he was,” Rich said of his father, who was known as Ollie. “He didn’t show it much, but he had a sensitive heart, you know.”

According to Rich, his oldest brother left to fight in 1966, and three others eventually followed. Sadly, the family never truly reunited. Dad Neil, Rich’s mother, and their six sons hadn’t all been together since 1964.

“The last chance was in 1985 before my mother passed away,” Rich told the outlet. “She was fighting cancer for 17 years.” Sadly, his brother Jimmy was unable to come home to see her during her last days with the rest of the family.

On Nov. 7, Neil — the patriarch of the family and a World War II veteran — died in a car accident.

Now, his boys are trying to plan a time for all of them to finally reunite and raise a glass to their father.

“We’re always going to be little Ollies, and he’s going to be the big honcho, always,” Rich said. “We’re going to take it outside and light up the Christmas tree for the last time and take [all the decorations] off and toast to Dad.”

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