A thankful gift: Tree donor's near-fatal stroke motivates expression of holiday renewal

Nov. 24—SHARON — Martin Tyillian nearly lost his life. Because of that he's giving an old companion an honor in its final days.

Sharpsville resident Tyillian donated his ailing spruce evergreen to serve as downtown Sharon's Christmas tree.

"That's the perfect end for a pine tree," he said. "It dies as a Christmas tree."

The 64-year-old is head of maintenance for Donna's Diner and the Buhl Mansion Guesthouse and Spa in Sharon. Five years ago, Tyillian collapsed at his home from a near-fatal stroke. Paralyzed at first, after more than an hour he managed to crawl outside his doorway to summon help from neighbors.

In the hospital, a nurse gave him a stark choice.

"She told me there was medication that could make me better or kill me," Tyillian said.

He chose to take the medicine, which saved his life. But his fall alone left him battered.

"I was black and blue from head to toe," Tyillian said.

Released from the hospital after two weeks, it was an agonizingly slow and painful recovery. Doctors told him he likely wouldn't be able to work again.

They were almost right. He was unable to work for two years as he underwent grueling therapy.

"I had to re-learn a lot, like walking," Tyillian said. "But I was able to work again."

He also was able to decorate his prized spruce in his yard for Christmas.

Earlier this year he noticed the lower branches of the more-than-30-year-old tree were dying. That's a sign the tree's days were probably numbered.

A call went out earlier this month from Sharon seeking a donation for its downtown Christmas tree. Tyillian quickly responded. His survival from the stroke energized him to give back to the community.

Hackett's Tree Service in Masury assisted the city's public works department in cudtting the tree's base and installing it on West State Street opposite The Winner store.

That created a domino effect: A tree that had already been placed on West State Street was moved a few blocks across town to replace a smaller one at the Dock Street-Connelly Boulevard roundabout. The original roundabout tree was then moved to the Sharon city building.

Tyillian's tree is center stage for Sharon's Small Business Saturday celebration. Since Christmas is the time of renewal, he couldn't be happier.

"This is a good story ending for everyone," he said.