Hoffman Estates woman, 96, goes all out for Christmas, including a two-story tree

Hoffman Estates woman, 96, goes all out for Christmas, including a two-story tree

  • Rosemarie Smedley, 96, loves Christmas. Each year, her son buys her a 20-foot tree and Rosemarie helps decorate the tree and transforms her Hoffman Estates home into a Christmas delight. This year's tree measures in at around 16 feet.

      Rosemarie Smedley, 96, loves Christmas. Each year, her son buys her a 20-foot tree and Rosemarie helps decorate the tree and transforms her Hoffman Estates home into a Christmas delight. This year's tree measures in at around 16 feet. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
Posted12/24/2021 6:00 AM

Rosemarie Smedley of Hoffman Estates is 96 years old -- and she still knows how to have fun.

While going out to her roadside mailbox recently, a relatively new resident from across the street offered to help her back inside the house. Seizing the opportunity, Smedley accepted his offer, but she had a trick up her sleeve.

 

"Well, now that you're here," she told him, "you might as well come in and see my tiny little Christmas tree."

Neighbors refer to the home of Rosemarie Smedley, 96, as the "Christmas House" because of her tall tree and lavish decorations. Smedley has lived in her townhouse along Poplar Creek Golf Course for 22 years.
  Neighbors refer to the home of Rosemarie Smedley, 96, as the "Christmas House" because of her tall tree and lavish decorations. Smedley has lived in her townhouse along Poplar Creek Golf Course for 22 years. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

The unsuspecting neighbor took one step inside her home and stopped in his tracks. There before him stood Smedley's "tiny little Christmas tree," standing more than 16 feet high, stretching to the top of her cathedral ceiling, and decked out with hundreds of red and gold ornaments and thousands of lights.

"I've got to call my wife," he exclaimed. "She's gotta see this."

Smedley has lived in her townhouse along Poplar Creek Golf Course for 22 years, and by now her neighbors know her as the owner of the "Christmas house."

Not only does she have the magnificent tree, but 15 pairs of elves sit along the banister going up to her loft. A collection of nutcrackers is showcased, as well as displays of decorative ornaments on several shelves and her mantle.

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Rosemarie Smedley, 96, who loves Christmas, is dwarfed by her giant tree. Each year her son buys her a two-story tree. Smedley helps decorate the tree and transforms her Hoffman Estates home into a Christmas delight.
  Rosemarie Smedley, 96, who loves Christmas, is dwarfed by her giant tree. Each year her son buys her a two-story tree. Smedley helps decorate the tree and transforms her Hoffman Estates home into a Christmas delight. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

But it is her giant tree that is the centerpiece. Her son, John Smedley of Rolling Meadows, -- one of her seven children, including six sons, -- started bringing her a fresh tree about 15 years ago. At first, it was a way of cheering up his mother after his father, Bill Smedley, passed away.

His son Jack began to help him, and each year he'd ask his father to purchase a larger tree. At one point the trees reached 20 feet tall, but this year's tree had to be cut back a bit, so it only extends a little more than 16 feet.

Most of the early years Smedley decorated the tree herself, but this year, she concedes, she let her son and grandson do it.

"I enjoy it," she says simply, "and I feel very loved by my children."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
A view of Rosemarie Smedley and her two-story Christmas tree from above.
  A view of Rosemarie Smedley and her two-story Christmas tree from above. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

While the tree brightens up her home for the holidays, the one thing it doesn't do is remind her of home, Smedley says.

She and her husband grew up in Sullivan County in southern Indiana, about 20 miles south of Terre Haute. Smedley grew up on a farm as the youngest of nine children -- with eight older brothers. The farm was relatively small, with no running water or electricity.

Her mother died when she was young, and Smedley said there were no frills in the house, including a Christmas tree.

"My brothers would do anything I asked them to do, and one year, when I was in about eighth grade (approximately 1939), I talked them into cutting down a Christmas tree," Smedley says. "There were no tree stands back then, so they brought it in and nailed the tree into two pieces of wood to stand it up."

Some of the many Christmas decorations that Rosemarie Smedley, 96, puts up with the help of her son at her Hoffman Estates home.
  Some of the many Christmas decorations that Rosemarie Smedley, 96, puts up with the help of her son at her Hoffman Estates home. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

The family had no ornaments, so Smedley remembers stringing popcorn to decorate the tree. She also took flower blooms and tied them with ribbons to the tree. Consequently, her first Christmas tree was humble, but memorable, considering she still remembers it 80 years later.

Smedley met her husband in high school and they married when they were 17. It was 1942, and Bill joined the Army Air Corps and learned to fly, training on B-17s.

When he returned after the war, the couple moved to West Lafayette, where Bill attended Purdue University on the G.I. Bill. Rosalie Smedley worked in the registrar's office at Purdue, writing out student records by hand.

Her husband eventually landed a job as a pilot with United Airlines, flying first out of Midway Airport and later out of O'Hare after it opened in 1960. The family resettled in Palatine in 1962, where most of their children attended Fremd High School.

Smedley now has 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. While two sons have passed away and two more sons and their families live out of state, the rest will gather with her, in the glow of the magnificent tree and all the decorations, in the Christmas house.

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