Nov. 18, 2016 – West Bend, WI – The life-size nativity display is a holiday hallmark for West Bend. Originally brought to the community by brothers Tom and Bob Rolfs, the pieces, handmade in Germany, were originally placed in front of the tower of the Amity building on Main Street.
The nativity later moved to the front of the Amity Outlet on Highway 33 and in 2007 it was donated to the Downtown West Bend Association. From 2007 until 2014 the nativity was set up in front of Westbury Bank on S. Main Street.
On Thursday, volunteers with the Downtown West Bend Association and staffers from Bits ‘n’ Pieces Floral spent a couple hours assembling the nativity.
A great team effort that pushed forward in honor of Tom O’Meara III, who spent years taking care of the nativity.
On a history note – below is an article from Around the Bend, Dec. 3, 2013
Donkey stolen from nativity in West Bend
WEST BEND – Within two weeks of being set up for the season, somebody has already stolen a piece from the nativity in downtown West Bend.
“Sure enough… there is no donkey,” said Lauri Gundrum, owner of Apple Barrel General Store, as she looked out her Main Street window Tuesday morning.
“Seriously what are they going to do with the nativity donkey? What the heck is wrong with people,” ranted Gundrum. “It’s Jesus transport for God’s sake.”
Gundrum wasn’t the only one upset. Former alderman Tom O’Meara worked the past year rehabbing the 17 pieces that make up the nativity.
“There used to be 18 in the set,” said O’Meara. “However a ram was stolen on Nov. 22, 2009; it has never been found nor replaced.”
O’Meara described the missing donkey as one of the larger pieces in the display. Set in the hay the gray donkey with a black mane looked over the manger. O’Meara said the piece measured about three feet high and weighed a little more than 20 pounds.
“I bet it’s sitting in somebody’s garage because some teenagers stole it. What the hell are the parents thinking? What sort of people do we have in West Bend now,” said an angry O’Meara.
“To steal something from a nativity scene… it’s wrong, just plain wrong.”
West Bend police say the incident was called in early Monday morning. “We were notified at 5:48 a.m. Monday,” said Captain Timothy Dehring. “We don’t have a lot of information; detectives are handling it.”
Ken Endlich, maintenance supervisor at Westbury Bank, was the one who first noticed something awry at the location in front of the bank on Walnut and Main.
“It’s too bad,” said Endlich. “I helped Tom set up the display and we took a lot of pride in it but it’s one of those things where you can’t just sit and babysit it, you have to hope that people are honest but I guess they’re not.”
Endlich checked on the nativity a couple times Sunday as he came downtown to watch the Christmas parade. “I walked by it just to make sure the lights were on for the parade and make sure it looked perfect and then I walked by after the parade and everything was still there and then I came in Monday morning for work and it’s the first thing I saw,” he said.
Early estimates are sometime between the parade wrapping up at 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. the next day is when the donkey disappeared from the manger.
In the past Endlich said they staked the pieces into the ground but that form of security started to take a toll on the display which dates to the late 1960s. “The figurines were getting wrecked so we didn’t do that with the larger pieces,” said Endlich.
The baby Jesus, he confirmed, is wired in place. That security measure was taken after the baby Jesus was stolen sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. The figure reappeared shortly thereafter on the front door of Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds.
“I met with police about the donkey, they took a report and then walked around a little bit downtown thinking somebody might have played a joke. I walked around our block and we couldn’t find anything,” said Endlich.