Rim Country Family Brightens Highway For Lonely Motorists

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During World War II, Jean Jennings hauled her small children and silver trailer from Montana to California to Florida to be near her husband wherever he was stationed.

More often than not, it seemed, she would find herself on the road over the holidays. When she occasionally came across a tree that somebody had decorated along the highway, it always made her feel like she wasn't so alone.

Since that time almost half a century ago, she has vowed that one day she would return the favor by decorating a tree along the road to cheer lonely, weary travelers. But living in Mesa for 50 years forced her to place her goal on hold.

Then, last November, Jennings moved to Payson to be closer to her granddaughter and great granddaughter who live in Round Valley.

And this year, at the age of 82, she has finally fulfilled her vow. With the assistance of her family, the Payson resident recently decorated a tree on the right hand side of northbound Highway 87 between Gibson Ranch Road (the turnoff to Round Valley) and the stoplight at Mazatzal Casino.

Because Jennings doesn't drive anymore, granddaughter Carol LaValley and great granddaughter Andromeda LaValley undertook the task of finding a tree to decorate.

"We needed one near relatively flat surfaces so she could reach it safely, and not too tall so we could reach the top," LaValley said.

With the tree chosen, the trio, along with a few other family members, gathered one morning last week to decorate it. It wasn't long before a highway patrol officer stopped to see what they were up to.

Once the officer was satisfied, the decorating commenced with leftover ornaments supplemented with some purchased at a second-hand store.

"Between chuckles and gritting of teeth, our family pulled boughs down and twist-tied colored balls, angels and a Santa on our highway Christmas tree," LaValley said. At the top, an American flag.

"We heard lots of honks from passing well-wishers," LaValley said, "and if the xxxx

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