Hometown Hero: A tree grew in Andover and was transformed into one of the biggest Christmas trees around

Liz Wolf has been there for Jenny Bodwell’€™s children, Ravena, 7, and Marina, 6, as well as leading a group of volunteers to weed Bodwell’s garden and pick potatoes while Bodwell rested from energy-zapping infusions.

Liz Wolf has been there for Jenny Bodwell’€™s children, Ravena, 7, and Marina, 6, as well as leading a group of volunteers to weed Bodwell’s garden and pick potatoes while Bodwell rested from energy-zapping infusions. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Liz Wolf lead the community to decorate a massive tree for Jenny Bodwell.

Liz Wolf lead the community to decorate a massive tree for Jenny Bodwell. Courtesy

Bt RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 01-27-2024 12:36 PM

Modified: 01-29-2024 1:00 PM


Liz Wolf showed during the recent holiday season that no unselfish act is too tall for the Andover resident.

Her friend, Jenny Bodwell, was diagnosed with liver cancer last summer. During her treatment in November, Bodwell expressed an interest in transforming the 75-foot blue spruce in her front yard into a Christmas tree.

“As soon as we moved in, I thought that would be a great idea to put lights up,” Bodwell said. “I thought we’d need a lift and I wouldn’t know how to put the lights on a tree that tall. But it was something that Kitty’s father planted when (the house) was built in the 1950s.”

Kitty is Kitty Kidder, Bodwell’s mother-in-law, who nominated Wolf for Hometown Hero status, a show of thanks for the manner in which Wolf has made Bodwell’s life more comfortable since her diagnosis in September.

Wolf led a group of volunteers to weed Bodwell’s garden and pick potatoes while Bodwell rested from energy-zapping infusions. But nothing made the splash in town like this altruistic endeavor did.

Wolf coordinated the effort, getting word out that Bodwell was sick and could use some help. She gathered the volunteers, secured a construction lift that reached 65 feet and raised money to buy the Christmas lights.

The town of Andover enjoyed the new piece to its landscape in what may be the start of a tradition.

“(It’s) enjoyed by the whole town,” Kidder said in her nominating email. “(Wolf) is clearly a hero to this family and has demonstrated to the town how to be a more giving neighbor.”

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Bodwell, her husband Scott, and their two daughters, ages 6 and 7, were on vacation late last summer in Nova Scotia when Bodwell said she felt pain on her side, preventing her from getting a good night’s rest.

Results from a hospital in Canada showed an abnormal growth in her liver. A few days later, tests at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center revealed cancer.

Bodwell missed work as a bus dispatcher for two months, before returning part-time in November. She continues to be treated by infusion therapy, receiving medication through a needle.

That process, a method used when medication can not be taken orally or needs to be dispensed at a controlled pace, has proven to be more effective than radiation treatment but has taken a toll on her body.

“I’m beating the cancer pretty good,” Bodwell said. “But (infusion) knocks me down. I get tired, but I’m also happy I can make it to work.”

A recent scan showed that the growth had been reduced by 41%, Bodwell said. During recovery, she mentioned to her husband, Scott Kidder, that she had long thought about decorating their enormous front yard tree. A tree that rivaled the one in Rockerfeller Center, which stood 80 feet tall last month.

Then, Scott said something to Wolf.

“My husband had a big mouth for some reason and mentioned the damn tree,” Bodwell said, laughing.

Wolf jumped into action. She raised money to buy lights, convinced a place to donate a construction lift to hang the lights near the top of the enormous tree, and asked Andover EMT and firefighter Andrew Perkins to ride the lift and hang the lights.

“He had no fear of heights,” Bodwell said. “But Andrew had to give up because he was freezing and tired from putting up all those lights all day long.”

The lights still shine on the tree, six weeks after they were initially put into place. Wolf has known Bodwell and her husband Scott Kidder for decades and was happy to help a family distracted by a shocking and scary diagnosis from September.

“Each thing you do for people gives you solace and peace of mind,” Wolf said. “Jenny is part of an invaluable circle of love, and I would do anything to make sure that circle remains unbroken.”