By Brandi Makuski
It’s a tree many motorists in Stevens Point pass daily, and it’s now ready for Christmas.
The 30-some-foot pine tree on the northwest corner of the Whiting Place apartment building—also the former location of Berkshire Hathaway—has been decorated for the holidays for the past 18 years, part of a promise made in 2000 when the small corner of land was formally recognized.
Known as “Willet’s Corner”, the space was dedicated to Ken and Lucille Willett “for all the children of Portage County.” Ken B. Willett, who died in 1994, often went by his initials and is known to the community as “K.B. Willet”, for whom the city’s ice skating rink is named.
Todd Hydinger has been part of the crew decorating the tree for the past several years. He, along with cohorts Mark Janowski and Various Tucker, completed this year’s decorations in about eight hours on Nov. 5.
The three work for John Noel, founder of Travel Guard International, and his wife Patty. The two are well-known locally for their philanthropy, particularly regarding the Portage Co. Boys and Girls Club.
“John [Noel] dedicated it to the Willetts,” Hydinger said. “They were kind of like John and Patty, pillars of the community. That’s why we decorate the tree every year; because the Willetts always thought Christmas was for the kids.”
Hydinger said “several hundred” ornaments and lights were placed on the tree annually. The tree was lit simultaneously with the city’s Christmas tree on Nov. 16.
The cornerstone on Willet’s Corner bears the inscription, “Stevens Point, a great place to live, work, play and pray.”