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Ogdensburg woman carries on her mother’s tradition

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OGDENSBURG — Thanks to some tape, 100 Christmas cards and a little ingenuity passed down from her mother, Dorothy M. Haggart is making Christmas a little brighter for her and her neighbors at Riverview Towers.

Ms. Haggart is sharing her family’s tradition of making a tree out of old Christmas cards and hanging it on the wall above the staircase of her family’s home.

The tradition dates back to when Ms. Haggart was a child growing up in Ogdensburg with her five siblings. It was started by her mother, Rosella M. Rolfe.

“She loved the holidays, and she always tried to make them special for us,” Ms. Haggart said. “But we didn’t have much. We had to make a lot of our Christmas ornaments by hand. We made a lot of paper chains, stars and snowflakes and we strung a lot – a lot – of popcorn over the years.”

Although the tree of cards was a sign of simpler times, Ms. Haggart said she can’t imagine Christmas without it.

“It’s the little things that stick out in your memory that make Christmas,” she said. “She even created little mobiles out of cards, now that I remember.”

Now that her mother has passed on, Ms. Haggart has built a Christmas tree made of cards outside her apartment at Riverview Towers each year in her mother’s honor. The tree is made of over 100 cards, some of which are five or six years old. When the cards begin to wear or fade, she replaces them with new ones.

“Sometimes when I pick up a card, I remember who gave it to me and when I got it,” she said.

Almost as soon as the tree is up, Mrs. Haggart said friends and neighbors will take a trip up or down to the fourth floor to see her design. Friends have said this year’s design looks like a blue spruce, she said.

“They always ask me, ‘Dorothy, when are you going to put your tree up?’” Ms. Haggart said.

Reney M. Palmateer, secretary of the tenants association at Riverview Towers, said Ms. Haggart’s tree is well known throughout the building.

“Everyone looks forward to it,” Mrs. Palamateer said. “Everyone sends her Christmas cards to put up. And when families or visitors come to visit residents, they stop down to see the tree.”

Decorating the corridors of each floor of the building is a tradition for residents, Ms. Palmateer said.

“It’s not a competition; everyone gets into the Christmas spirit,” Mrs. Palmateer said. “It brings everyone together, especially those you haven’t seen in a while. After they finish the floors, everyone will decorate the Christmas tree together in the common room.”

Ms. Haggart is hoping to teach the tradition of the card tree to her 10-year-old granddaughter, Josie Freeman-Haggart, when she visits next week.

Ms. Haggart is asking anyone who can to drop off cards at room 403.

“I thought, instead of throwing them in the dumpster, people might give them to me or start their own tradition,” Ms. Haggart said.

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