Alaskan who kept Glenn Highway Christmas tree lit for almost 20 years dies in dirt bike accident

A 53-year-old Wasilla man known for keeping a beloved holiday landmark alight for nearly two decades died this week in a dirt biking accident in the Lower 48.

Jason Tolstrup took over responsibility for lighting a festively decorated spruce tree along the side of the Glenn Highway in 2005. When the tree died one winter, Tolstrup built a towering metal replacement with twinkling LED lights that he kept lit all winter long.

For years, Tolstrup, who worked as a longshoreman, lugged heavy batteries through snow nearly every other day to brighten the wintry commutes of the thousands of people who drive between Anchorage and the Mat-Su each day.

His wife, Kaye Tolstrup, said the work Jason Tolstrup put into that tree — which has amassed its own loyal following on social media and beyond — was an example of the kind of generous person he was.

Tolstrup died Wednesday in an accident while on a trip with his twin brother, Dustin Tolstrup. They had been dirt biking in Arizona and Nevada.

In social media tributes, friends and family described Jason Tolstrup as a loving father, brother and friend. Tolstrup’s family set up a GoFundMe for his wife and three daughters. Strangers remember him as the man who had brought light to many long, dark winters with a glimmer of LED lights twinkling from the marshy Palmer Hay Flats on a 20-foot tree.

One winter, he seriously injured his back after falling during the icy trek to tend to the tree. He resumed his caretaking the following winter.


Kaye Tolstrup said it was other people’s reaction to the tree that kept her husband so invested in the tree and its upkeep. “Just what that tree meant to people. What it did for them,” she said.

The couple had heard from a person in recovery from substance addiction who visited the tree to find hope. One woman told them she stopped by the tree on the way to the hospital after going into premature labor “because it gave her hope that her baby would make it, Kaye Tolstrup said.

She said in his absence, his twin brother planned to keep the tree lit, to carry on the tradition.

“He just wanted to make everybody happy,” she said of her husband.

Annie Berman

Annie Berman is a reporter covering health care, education and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in San Francisco before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at