Leona Gould of Poland decorates her home with eight Christmas tree each year. The display caught the attention of some of her apartment-complex neighbors who asked for tours.
By Ashley Luthern
At Leona Gould’s home, every Christmas tree has a story — all eight of them.
It started with Gould’s love of ballet and Christmas.
Gould grew up in Youngstown’s Brownlee Woods neighborhood and danced at a Struthers studio until she was 22. She once performed the lead role of Clara in “The Nutcracker.”
When she was young, Gould’s mother gave her a favorite Christmas gift: two 3-foot tall ballerina dolls purchased at the former Hills department store.
The dolls now stand watch over Gould’s Nutcracker Christmas tree that’s adorned with pink lights, pink ribbon and ballet ornaments.
Some of the dangling ornaments are part of family history. There’s a Garfield cartoon cat wearing a tutu from Gould’s aunt and paper star ornaments that hung on her parents’ tree when they were married.
At more than 7 feet tall, the Nutcracker tree is the centerpiece of the apartment that Gould shares with her boyfriend, Jim Bakalar, but it has lots of company.
One tree was inspired by her brother, Joseph Gould.
“He would say, ‘Oh here we go again with the ballerinas.’ He loves to ride [motorcycles] and does a lot of benefit runs, so I made him a Harley [Davidson] tree,” she said.
Stuffed pigs wearing Harley T-shirts, toy tools and American flags are tucked throughout the 5-foot tree that’s topped with a toy of Santa riding a motorcycle that plays “Born to Be Wild.”
For her boyfriend, Jim, there’s a sports tree complete with Cleveland Browns decorations; and for her mother, a gingerbread tree.
“She loves the sweets during Christmas,” Gould said of her mother, who also inspired a second tree known as “the bird tree.” Blue lights wrap around a 3-foot artificial pine and fake birds rest along the boughs.
Two shorter trees are new this year. One is black with tiny mirrored globes hanging from it.
“That’s the disco tree. It’s a new tree this year. When I was graduating, we did disco back then,” said Gould, a Wilson High School alumna.
On a stand across from the disco tree is a 2-foot tall pink tree adorned with pink poinsettias and springs of baby’s breath.
“I do a lot of floral arrangements on the side. I love the glitter and sparkle,” she said.
The final tree rests on a table behind the couch and has Native American decorations, such as dream catchers and wind chimes.
“That represents my brother and me. We’re fourth-generation Cherokee. I leave it up all year,” she said.
Gould’s Christmas decor has gotten attention from neighbors, who often ask for tours. The display takes at least three days to put up and Gould uses vacation time from her job at a local nursing home every November to prepare.
“I love doing it. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. My mom would be opening the door to trick-or-treaters, and they would see me putting up the Christmas tree. I hate taking it all down,” she said.