Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Family donates Christmas tree to church for 5 decades

Published:Thursday | December 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM

LEAD, South Dakota, (AP):

For five decades, the Sternhagen family, led by patriarch Jim Sternhagen, have scouted, sawed, and celebrated their annual Christmas tree find by donating the mostly large-scale, towering specimen to the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Lead.

This year was no exception. The family donated an 18-foot spruce tree, now decorated with treasured and traditional hand-made church ornaments gracing its boughs.

"How it started was, I was working the timber and Pastor Hubert Kaste asked me to get a tree," said Jim. "I logged in the forest a lot."

And a long-standing tradition was born out of the '60s.

Since then, Jim and his five sons Fred, Jim Jr, Scott, John, and Lewis have all been a part of the process over the years. And now, the festivities involve nine grandchildren, and sons-in-law as well.

"The Lord always provided us with a tree," said John. "They've mostly been around 18 feet tall, which is what this year's is."

"And they've been out in every winter condition," added John's wife, Cindy.

"Due to the snow, we've had to haul it to the road with a snowmobile," John said. "Sometimes it's easy, sometimes not so easy, but it's always fun. Especially this year, with nearly all the family out there."

This year's tree was found in the Dumont area on Forest Service land, the Black Hills Pioneer reported .

"But they've come from all over," John said.

Asked why the family has kept up a 50-year commitment to the church congregation in gathering its Christmas altar showpiece, Jim, who is very understated and humble, but agreed to a story for the 50th anniversary, simply stated: "It's kind of a tradition, I guess."

"People do different things for the church and we were able to cut trees, so we cut trees," he said.