Local Christmas displays have new meaning
Every year for the past six, Kathy Caylor handpicked and decorated the Christmas tree that stood at the gazebo at Normal Park. After Lydia Baumann became the inspiration and chief financial backer of the gazebo, Caylor wanted the gazebo to be filled with the biggest tree that she could find to create a Rockwell like experience.
Each tree was donated by Fred Latzig of Central Wisconsin Evergreen in the Town of Merrill for which Caylor and her family purchased the thousands of LED lights which she hung on the tree through many a freezing day, preparing the tree so it could be lit the night of the Christmas parade.
The tree was always collaboration between Kathy and Darlene Caylor, sisters-in-law who dedicated to the tree to the memory of their husbands, Michael “Loopy” Caylor and T. William “Bill” Caylor. Both men were life-long residents and contributors to the City of Merrill and its Chamber.
In March of this year Darlene passed away after a long battle with cancer. Then in September the chief decorator, Kathy, died after a short battle with cancer.
Knowing her cancer was terminal, Kathy instructed her children to continue the tradition, instructing her daughter and daughter-in-law they were now responsible for picking out the tree.
As the family was grieving the death of Kathy, her brother-in-law, Daniel Caylor, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack at his Merrill home a month to the day after Kathy died.
Dan “Hank” Caylor was a retired city police officer and had served on the Lincoln County Board for many years. The youngest of eight children in the original Caylor fold, Dan was well known for his affection for circuses, carnivals, and trains.
With Christmas approaching, the Caylor family was thinking of a way to memorialize Hank when his nephew Michael “Gus” Caylor remembered the wooden train set that had been in his garage for over a year.
The train, a plywood train that had seen its better days, was saved from a dumpster by Gus in May of 2014. The train was part of a lot that was bought at the auction at the former fire station.
“They sold the lot before I even knew they were bidding, and the guy who bought it only wanted one old sign out of the eight he got; he intended on throwing away the rest,” Gus remembered. “I reimbursed him $2 of the $3 he spent and got the rest of the signs always intending on doing something with them.”
When Hank died, Gus knew the train would be a perfect display to remember him. Permission was gained from the county maintenance department and Judge Jay Tlusty who oversees the courthouse. The Merrill Chamber was seeking out something to add to the new lawn display and agreed the new train would be a good fit.
The train was created almost 50 years ago by the Merrill firemen and was displayed on the lawn at the east side fire station. Being nearly 50 years old meant the train set needed a major makeover so Gus sought out family friend Gail Curran. Gail is a retired teacher who, along with her husband Tom, enjoys crafts and projects. Gail and Tom immediately went to work on the train and had it ready to go on the court house lawn, back to its original glory.
The Caylor family hopes that the two displays help to capture the spirit of the holiday season for all who view them while at the same time keeping alive the memory of five of their own family who loved Merrill and all that this season brought with it each year. Believe in the magic of the Season.