BEACON FALLS — Year-round, Livia Keith keeps at least one Christmas tree decorated in her Maple Avenue home.
In her living room Friday, Keith’s tree glowed with red, blue and white lights. A wreath marked the top, and each branch held a decoration collected from over the years—knitted socks and ice skates and old photographs of neighborhood children she has welcomed into her home during the holidays.
Her love for the winter holiday and her generosity with children made her the perfect candidate to be the town’s first Christmas mayor. At her home on Friday morning, Keith, 81, said she wanted to wish all residents a happy holiday as Beacon Falls’ Christmas mayor.
First Selectman Susan Cable presented Keith with a proclamation Dec. 5, during a tree-lighting ceremony.
“I was so proud of it,” Keith said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Her title has reached far and wide. When she played Bingo recently at St. Francis Church in Naugatuck, the caller announced she had been named Christmas mayor in Beacon Falls, and all that night, her friends called her “Mayor.”
Christmas cards and other holiday decorations are posted throughout her living room, and as soon as a step is taken into the house, a two-foot Santa Claus erupts with music. Snowman figurines standing on a table sing a holiday tune with the push of a button. Small statues of Santa Claus, collected from countries all over the world, such as Australia, Romania and Holland, dot the fireplace.
“Everybody who comes in just loves them,” Keith said.
Each guest who arrives gets to open a small wrapped gift.
Marion Zollo, 69, and Albert Zollo, 70, Keith’s cousin, help her decorate the tree. Its decorations change with every holiday, including Halloween, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day; the Fourth of July brings a patriotic-themed tree that has photos of military men and women.
Keith likes the photos of children on her tree, she said.
“It has more meaning to it,” Keith said. “I don’t forget.”
While many children visit her throughout the winter holiday, a crowd fills her home on Halloween, which is her favorite holiday, alongside Christmas. Because it’s one night, a long line of children extends from her front door. They share her homemade chocolate chip cookies, pose for photos and listen to her stories.
The tree in the front room changes, but tucked away in the dining room is a Christmas tree that hasn’t changed for years.
It’s Keith’s Boston Red Sox tree, which is laden with game tickets, photos of children standing beside the tree with their pets, ceramic baseballs and a Red Sox cap to mark the tree top. When Christmas is over, even the Santa Claus from the front room is moved to this area, and wears a Red Sox cap.
It’s not unusual to see bicycles on the front lawn of Keith’s house. She is known as a mentor to children, and once they are grown, they also bring their children to Keith’s home, family said.
Marion Zollo’s grandson, Antonio, 13, told her the reason why children like to hang out at Keith’s: “We like to come to Lil’s because she listens,” she said. Her grandson calls her Aunt Lil.
“She just loves Christmas with the children,” said Marion Zollo. “I think that’s what inspires her. It’s the children.”
Cable said she named a Christmas mayor this year because she wanted to start a new tradition for Beacon Falls, something a little different from other towns. Keith was the perfect candidate, she said.
“She’s a woman full of dedication and love and lots of history, and she shares it with everybody,” Cable said.