A Gardner couple was killed and one person was injured after a motorcycle hit a deer on Interstate 35 near 167th Street July 13, 2019.
According to a Kansas Highway Patrol crash report, Jason Huen, 37, and Julie Huen, 27, were traveling northbound on I-35 when they struck a deer that ran in front of the vehicle just before 9:30 p.m.
The couple was thrown from the motorcycle after striking a nearby guardrail.
The couple had many friends in the area, and many remember the giant Christmas tree they had in 2017. The story originally appeared in The Gardner News in December 2017.
Gardner couple enjoys gigantic Christmas tree
Special to The Gardner News
Julie and Jason Huen, who live in the Plum Creek subdivision in Gardner, had a 14 foot Christmas tree in their house last year. Julie noticed empty space between the top of that tree and the ceiling, and this year decided they needed a bigger tree.
First they had to find a tree that big, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s not a lot of demand for trees over 12 feet tall, and initially they had no luck finding any tree farms that had one that large for sale.
“I called everyone within an hour of us and no one had anything,” says Julie Huen.
Eventually, they were referred to a retired tree farmer in Topeka who had a couple of good sized trees still in the ground and was willing to let them cut one.
“We think it was about 35 foot initially. They cut a lot of the bottom off. When it was loaded on the truck it was 20 foot and now it’s 18,” she recalls.
A forklift loaded that 20 foot tree onto the roof of Jason’s Chevy Suburban. The tree on the roof of the SUV looked almost equal in size to the vehicle carrying it, as Jason transported it from Topeka to Gardner.
The first question that comes to mind when looking at that large tree in their front room is – how did they get that huge tree through the front door? Well, it wasn’t easy.
Julie Huen describes the process.
They laid blankets out in the driveway, then rolled the tree off the vehicle onto them. The tree was rolled up in the blankets, with ratchet straps tightening it down, like a big cigar.
The storm door and the front door were removed, but it was still too big to go through easily. To get it through the doorway would require a coordinated team effort.
“My husband and his buddy James started pulling the tree from the inside, while me and his wife Christine were on the outside, on each side of the tree. Every time they pulled, we pushed the sides together,” Huen says.
Once inside, it was stood up and held in place temporarily with ropes, while a base was built around the bottom.
“It was such an ordeal – it was another week before we even started decorating,” she said.
The tree stood unadorned until the next weekend, when they added 500 feet of lights, between 300 to 400 feet of ribbon and around 300 ornaments.
Decorating the tree was an all day job, too, and even a bit risky at times. Jason Huen found himself on top of a ladder having to lean in to get decorations on the top.
“I started feeling a little unsafe leaning in, so some of that stuff up there I kind of just threw at the tree and hoped it stuck,” he says.
Julie Huen is appreciative of her husband’s efforts.
“Without him that tree wouldn’t be standing – or decorated. The bottom would be,” she says.
The Huen’s shared their tree story on social media as it was unfolding and got a lot of interest. They invited people in the community who wanted to come see it into their home. Fox4 TV came out and did a piece on them. Some of Jason’s friends started calling him Clark Griswold.
In January, when the time comes to remove the tree, it will be cut into smaller pieces inside the house before removal.
“I’ve got a good vacuum cleaner, I can handle the sawdust,” says Julie Huen.
Will they do it again next year? Both Julie and Jason say they would, but they are not sure it will happen. They feel kind of lucky to have found a tree that size this year and are not sure they will be able to find another one next year.
Whether the extra large tree becomes an annual tradition or is just a memorable onetime thing remains to be seen, but it seems safe to assume that Christmas will always be big for the Huen family.
(Story first run December, 2017 in The Gardner News. )