CONNEAUTVILLE, Pa. — The treehouse just off of State Highway 198 in Summerhill Township draws attention.
“I had always thought it would be a fun thing to be the cool kid at school. ‘I have a treehouse and everything,’” said 16-year-old Ryan Martin.
For the passerby, it is a reminder of Christmas and the holiday season. For the Martin family, it is a reminder of their loved one.
Michael Rudler built the treehouse nine years ago for his nephew, Ryan. It was then that the family began decorating the treehouse for the holidays.
Ryan said, “I remember, he was the jokester of the family. He’d come over every Christmas and he and I would be sitting around shooting NERF guns.”
In 2010, just four days before Christmas, Rudler passed away. The treehouse suddenly took on new meaning.
“It’s just developed into something more, and just all the memories we have building it and creating what we’ve done with it.”
The colors change throughout the years for different holidays, but Ryan said the treehouse remains alight.
“We started doing it and ever since then it’s been growing. We’ve been lighting it every day. It hasn’t been dark since he died, pretty much.”
Ryan spoke fondly of Rudler as he sat at the dinner table with his mother and father, Tom and Brenda Martin.
He said, “(Uncle Michael) wanted everyone to be happy. To have a smile on their face.”
Mrs. Martin, Rudler’s sister, said the creation remains a light for the family.
“I think that through this effort, Ryan has learned to let his light shine as strongly as his Uncle Michael did for other people,” she said.