Christmas may still be six weeks away, but Schenectady’s Bill and Nancy Winkler are already in the giving spirit.
The couple are donating to New York state the 35-foot-tall blue spruce that stands in the front yard of their home on Wendell Avenue. Branches will be decorated with the reds, greens and golds of the holiday season and the tree will stand through early winter at the Empire State Plaza.
“We’re happy to do it, happy to share it with everybody during the holiday season, all the children,” said Nancy Winkler on Monday.
The tree, which viewed from the street stands on the right side of the Winklers’ lawn, has been growing since the late 1970s. It started at 4 feet, and was one of two trees the couple received from Thomas Connors, Nancy’s father.
The other was located on the left side of the lawn and became an official New York state holiday tree in 2001. The Winklers dedicated that tree to people lost in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and especially to Mike Canty. Canty graduated from Linton High School with the Winklers’ oldest daughter, Michele.
The 2013 tree is dedicated to the Winklers’ four grandchildren — Molly, 11, Luke, 10, Connor, 5, and Jackson, 4. The spruce is leaving the neighborhood because it has overgrown its welcome.
“We used to decorate it, but it’s too big to do that now,” said Bill Winkler, director of operations in Schenectady’s City Hall. “We wanted to donate this to the state, have them use it the same as they used it before for Christmas. Next summer, we’re going to plant two new ones.”
Squirrels, rabbits and birds in the Winklers’ section of Wendell — a short distance off Nott Street between Teviot and Athol roads — are going to miss the sensational spruce. Bill Winkler is going to miss it himself.
“They don’t shed,” he said. “It’s absolutely minimal maintenance on it. I never really did anything to it and I think it grows so nice and full and symmetrical because there’s nothing around it. It gets direct sunlight on all sides.”
The Winkler tree is one of two official state holiday trees. Another, from Sharon Springs, will be decorated in East Capitol Park.
Bill Winkler said he and his wife called the state’s Office of General Services (OGS) during the late summer and offered the spruce. Personnel from General Services examined the candidate and in October decided to accept the gift.
The state receives dozens of offers for holiday tree donations each year. “We look at a number of things,” said Heather Groll, an OGS spokeswoman. “We always want them to be 30 feet tall and we make sure they’re sort of easily accessible and easy to transport out of the neighborhood. We don’t like to disrupt traffic or get in anybody’s way. And they need to be nice and full.”
“It’s really cool it’s going to be in Albany,” said senior grandchild Molly. “If we get to watch them take it down, that will be really cool.”
State crews will cut and bundle the spruce Wednesday beginning at 8:30 a.m. The tree will be lighted on Dec. 8, during a 5 p.m. program that will include caroling and fireworks.
Nancy Winkler, a medical assistant in the wound care department at Ellis Medicine, will miss her green giant. She expects she will receive plenty of nature in return.
“That blocked a lot of afternoon sun,” Winkler said, counting on brighter rooms inside her house. “That will be different, that’s for sure.”