Talk of the Town by Mary McKenna

You know Christmas is coming to Hudson when the mouse makes its way up the clock tower and the town starts to twinkle. ’Tis the season once again for readying homes and hearts, and for many Hudsonites, that means a trip to ye old Scouting cabin on the green to pick out the perfect tree – a tradition that dates back to 1996, when tree sales were first introduced at that location as a fundraiser for Scouting trips.  

Bill Sepe has fond memories of the first selling season there. As Scout leader of Troop 320, he and fellow Scoutmaster Ron Brubaker said they were looking for ways the boys could raise money to help fund an upcoming adventure trek when the idea of selling Christmas trees came to them.

This 1998 photo memorializes some of the earliest Christmas tree sales at Hudson’s historic Boy Scout Cabin, under the direction of longtime residents and then Scout leaders Bill Sepe and Ron Brubaker. Photo submitted.

“I felt it was an excellent idea and would be a hit in Hudson,” recalled Bill, who said the only thing left to do after pricing trees was to get permission to sell them on the green and run the sales through the Scout cabin. “After we cleared those two hurdles, we were somehow led to Mr. Duane Hills, who used to operate a Christmas tree lot behind the old Bricker’s Ice Cream stand [now FedEx].” 

Duane was getting out of the tree sale business, Bill continued, and offered his signs, tree stands and hanging lights to the Scouts. Those items are still used to this day. “He even came to one of our troop meetings before we opened for business and gave the boys tips for how to sell Christmas trees when a family came on the lot,” Bill said.

The troop purchased 300 trees that first year, in four varieties, raising over $5,000 for the Scouts.

Julia Grossman, mom to two current Scouts from Troop 333 who carry on the tradition, said her twins love the job and “greatly enjoy meeting the customers and helping them.” According to Julia, they earn money for Scout camp and other adventures for each shift they work and have also invited the Girl Scouts to join them “so that they too can earn money for their troop.”

Available for purchase this year are locally grown, fresh-cut frasier firs, blue spruce and scotch pines. Julia said cups of hot cocoa and cookies await customers who prefer to warm up in the cabin while their trees are loaded and tied down. “This year we are open on weekends Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.” she noted. “We open Black Friday and will sell every weekend until we are sold out. Last year, we sold out in three weeks so shopping early for best selection is advised.”

In addition to the festive atmosphere at the tree sale, the community is invited to attend a special Taize prayer service hosted by St. Mary Catholic Church on Tuesday, Dec. 5, from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

According to Pastoral Associate Lisa Davidson, Taize prayer is meditative in character. The candlelit service includes simple, repetitive chants, reading from Scripture, intercessions, and periods of reflective silence. She said attendees at St. Mary’s service would also have the opportunity to come forth and light their own candle to represent their personal prayers.

“All are welcome to join us,” Lisa encouraged, adding that “many people feel overwhelmed, busy, anxious and anything but peaceful at this time of year. Taize prayer is a chance, just for an hour, to quiet your heart. It is extremely peaceful and beautiful. It’s one of my favorite things we do at St. Mary.” 

“Clayton Rakes,” a leaf-cleanup and ALS fundraising enterprise, began when 10-year-old Brady Yozwiak wanted to do something tangible to help his dad, Chris, battle the neurodegenerative disease. Chris was diagnosed with ALS in 2020. In 2022, Brady and his younger sister, Brooklyn, together with the support of their mom, Jen, invited friends and started raking leaves throughout their neighborhood for donations. Week by week, their raking crew grew, along with funds totaling $60,000 that they were able to raise and donate to the ALS Therapy Development Institute, a nonprofit biotech research organization dedicated to finding treatments for ALS.

Brady Yozwiak started “Clayton Rakes,” a leaf-cleanup and ALS fundraising enterprise, in 2022, following his father’s diagnosis of the disease. Photo submitted.

“I really can’t explain how it happened except that the community of Hudson is something really special,” Jen said. “People would always tell me that, but it was not until unfortunately what’s happened to our family that I’ve really appreciated just how much people come out to support.”

Jen described ALS as “horrible and unrelenting,” a rare disease that’s unfamiliar to some and unimaginable to most. “It’s like nothing else. There’s no hope, no treatment, no cure,” she said, and while her husband, Chris, has been “stripped” of so much in his battle with the disease, one thing she and her kids are on a mission to restore is hope for those whose life is touched in some way by ALS.

“It’s such a great feeling to be outside on a crisp fall day and to be helping others. We’re hoping to make $100,000 this year, which blows my mind,” Jen said. “By doing this … that gives us hope. It’s something we’re doing obviously for my husband and their dad but that it can be a legacy that lives on well past Chris and ultimately, the many blessings that come out of something so difficult has been very apparent through our journey.”

Brady and Brooklyn’s dedicated efforts have since sparked a national campaign called “Rake for ALS.” The sibling pair recently received the Alexander Haywood Leadership Award for their work and contributions to the ALS space. Congratulations, both of you, on this well-deserved honor, and thank you for the incredible difference your helping hands and caring hearts have made!

With the help of family and friends, including his sister Brooklyn, Brady Yozwiak raised $60,000 for ALS in 2020, a sum he plans to increase this raking season. Photo submitted.

Congratulations to local resident and newly appointed federal immigration judge for the U.S. Department of Justice, Tania Nemer. Attorney General Merrick Garland presided over the ceremony in Washington, D.C., and friends and family traveled from all over the country to be there for the investiture. Best wishes to you, Judge Nemer, as this new chapter in your career unfolds.

Hudsonite Tania Nemer stands with her family after being sworn in as a federal judge by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo submitted.

Finally, our sympathies to the Harabin family. George Harabin Sr., the 104-year-old WWII veteran featured on last month’s cover honoring our soldiers, died on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11. May his soul rest in peace.

George Harabin Sr., a St. Mary Catholic Church parishioner who lived nearby in Twinsburg Township with his son, died on Veteran’s Day. He was 104 years old and survived 16 months of combat service in the South Pacific during World War II. Photo by J. Stringer

As always, please share your news and adventures with us by emailing Hudson Life at ∞