Mike Kasl died last week while making the Christmas wreaths that inspired fellow tree farmer Chris Seets.
On Tuesday, Seets presented one of her mentor's final creations to Gov. Jeff Colyer as part of an annual celebration at Cedar Crest in Topeka that includes delivery of a Kansas-grown Christmas tree.
Celia Goering, president of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association, presided over the arrival of an 8-foot Scotch pine, a gift from the 4C Tree Farm near Wichita.
"It is an honor every year to help present this tree to the people of Kansas," Goering said.
News of Kasl's unexpected death infused the otherwise joyous event with a tinge of sadness.
Seets said Kasl would "cut the stuff" out of his field at Kasl's Christmas Tree Farm in Belleville, and work the trimmings around a big ring in his shop. Three years ago, Seets started her own business, Chris' Tree Lodge, near Abilene.
"He was my mentor," she said, "and he was a wonderful man."
His wreath will be displayed in front of the governor's mansion through the holiday season.
"It's a very special thing," Colyer said. "I think he's going to be smiling down on us this Christmas."
Colyer joined Goering and employees of 3C Carriage Service atop the horse-drawn wagon for the traditional procession to the mansion entrance.
"The horses are right in sync," Colyer said. "They've been around together for a lot of years. It's a lot of fun. They can even give you the reigns, and when those horses take off, you can feel it. I just wish we had a little bit of snow so it would feel like a real Christmas."
The cloppity-clop of percherons Bess and Betsy gave way to a trill of tinkling voices teeming with glee, aroma of apple cider and dashing of children unrestrained in their indulgence of Christmas cheer.
"You can smell it, you can feel it, in our home," Colyer said. "We're very honored to have you today and continue the tradition."