Washington man honors late wife with Valentine's Day tree

Herb Allwine has continued his wife's tradition of decorating a planted tree.

— -- A plum tree decorated with hearts outside a Seattle home is not just a Valentine's Day symbol, it's also an annual show of love for the owner's late wife.

This month, Allwine lovingly hung hearts and red and white lights on the plum tree he and Mary Lou planted outside their home in the late 1970s.

"She was very gung-ho into it," Allwine told ABC News. "I would do the lights pretty much and she'd do the decorations and orchestrate where and how'd we put them."

"One year we were taking the stuff down and she said, 'Oh let's just leave those lights up on the top of the tree,'" he recalled. "Well they've been there ever since and it's grown and grown and grown."

Allwine, who with his wife had two children, now in their 40s, said the white lights at the top of the tree stay up year-round while the bottom lights and decorations are switched out.

"That just goes on and on forever," he said of the process.

The tree has become an institution in Allwine's Seattle neighborhood. People leave thank you cards at Allwine's home and even occasionally leave some cash to help him pay for the electricity that keeps the tree lit.

"One note said, 'I live on the east side but drive by your house every day and appreciate seeing the tree,'" Allwine said. "Even my doctor said, 'Oh, that's your house. I drive by the tree every day when I pick up my kids.'"

The tree is more emotional for Allwine and his family, including his mother-in-law who lives nearby and comes by often to look at the decorations.

"She gets kind of emotional and teary about it at times," he said. "Mary Lou was her only child."

Allwine said his enthusiasm for decorating the tree is nowhere near as strong as his wife's, but he continues to do it in her memory.

His daughter, who also lives in the family home, helps with purchasing new decorations as the decorations purchased by Mary Lou age. Allwine has recruited his grandson to help too.