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GUEST,WYS-out Story: Pickles and Pie Pans (PY) (8) RE: Story: The D[xxxx] Nativity Set (PY) 17 Jan 10


People have asked me about the large Nativity figures presently gracing our Parish House. The Nativity set was donated to St. Paul's by the Derenthal Family of Owego, New York.

When Ed V[xxx] and I picked up their gift, Mrs. D[xxxxx] (Cathy) shared with me her memories of arriving from New York City, where she'd grown up, to start her married life in Owego. She and her husband were to raise [xxx] children in the small house in whose driveway we stood visiting. "It seemed like a pretty big change," she said, grinning. We then shared our perspectives on how wonderful it is when a small town adopts you, how much you find you must learn to become part of such a community, and how gracious folks are to "train" you to join in.

As she shared more lovely memories (with tears in her eyes), it was evident that she was still very much in love with her late husband, who had died suddenly just a few years ago... so I asked her, very gently, "How can you part with these? They sound like they've been such a powerful family memento."

Smiling, she said, "I just can't put them up myself.... But I thought they should be seen and enjoyed by other people. So we all just decided to pass them on."

Cathy was reassured to know that her precious Nativity figures were going to a community much like her adopted home town, and she was glad to hear a description of the oft-used Town Green and fountain her husband's Set might someday face. I had the feeling that, but for the distance, she'd enjoy worshipping with us-- and seeing our similarly-styled Creche set.

I told her that at St. Paul's, we always appreciate a good story, and that folks would want to know more about the set-- particularly since it looks so much like our beloved indoor Creche set that Anne T[xxxxx] restored just a few years ago. Cathy told me that her husband, too, had lovingly restored their set every few years. "Of course it's designed to be seen from the street, not up close. But when you start to load up the pieces," she said, "you'll see that it's due for a touchup now..... well, we just don't have the time..."

Cathy and her son Brian told me how the set came to be. Said Cathy, "You used to be able to buy a beautiful set of figures printed on heavy paper. My husband just applied them to his own plywood, cut out the figures, shellacked them, and made backs to stand them up and anchor them." Brian told me: "My Dad's name was Edwin D[xxxxx]. The set was put up originally~ in 1962~ a few years after they bought the [Owego] house in 1959. The Nativity was put up every year until Dad passed away in February 2006. That's 43 years. He maintained it fairly well. We (Cathy and her son) will both enjoy seeing pictures of the set once you get it set up."

The set, because it is a handsome reflection of the smaller set found inside St. Paul's at Christmastime, would make a wonderful invitation to attend St. Paul's Christmas services. (Or the figures can again be displayed in the Parish House if it is decided that it is better suited for indoor use.) Father G[xxx] and I plan to shore up the backings during the year, and see how it might look in the front yard of the church. If anyone wants to assist with re-touching or re-varnishing it, or wants to construct a stable-outline as a backdrop, please contact us.

Estimated cost to replace the 15 figures in today's economy: $1,000, according to Brain's figuring:
- Buy the plywood, images, templates for plywood, eye hooks;
- Labor to cut out and sand the plywood figures, install backing and install hooks, glue on the images, protect with shellac, re-touch as needed with paint.

Respectfully submitted,

~Susan H[xxxxx]

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