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The Leaning Tree, Lake George.

The story behind the commissioned painting, The Leaning Tree.


Larry Gralla was 18 years old when he and a friend from Brooklyn arrived in Bolton Landing on Lake George and rented camping gear. They boated out to Turtle Island for a weekend of swimming, hiking, camping and exploring. It was during this first visit that Larry saw a pine tree leaning over the lake at a steep angle. He thought it was cool and took photos. But he was certain it wouldn’t last a single Adirondack winter and would soon collapse under its own weight. It was 1947 and Larry had just fallen in love with Lake George.


Larry began going to Lake George every summer and once he had a family of his own they vacationed there annually. His daughter, Adele (Tomasetti), told me that the highlight of every summer during her childhood was visiting Lake George - and the first stop was always to take a boat out to check on the Leaning Tree.


In 1990, Larry’s 60th birthday party was celebrated on Turtle Island next to the tree, which was still standing. His granddaughter Liane was born that same summer and Liane celebrated her 30th birthday at Lake George just last month - a visit that was not without a trip to see the tree, which still stands!


Adele says that the Leaning Tree and being at the lake has come to define their family. The tree symbolizes both real and imagined family folklore; they invented rituals and myths about the tree over the years to tell and retell to each other during their annual summer vacations. Undoubtedly a creative bunch, one year they made t-shirts with a picture of the tree and the slogan, “Still Standing Since 1947!"


The family returned to Lake George every year, renting various houses during the summer and exploring the lake on their boat. In 2019 they finally bought a lakefront home of their own.


Adele, who commissioned the watercolor painting as a birthday gift for her husband Dan, told me that she always thought that the tree would fall. But it actually continued to lean and survive. In 2020 it doesn’t appear to be thriving but is still standing! Her father Larry Gralla is now 90 years old and lives with his wife in lower Westchester, NY.

The Leaning Tree, June 2020

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