Dec. 16, 2017 – West Bend, WI – West Bend police have found the body and an arm of the baby Jesus figurine after the Amity Rolfs nativity was vandalized sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
Police found portions of the figurine in the pocket park, Vest Park, across the street from the Old Settler’s Park on N. Main Street in downtown West Bend.
Police said the head was missing from the body of the figurine and has not been located.
That nativity setup was handmade in Germany and originally brought to the community in the late 1960’s on special order by brothers Tom and Bob Rolfs.
Anna Jensen, executive director of the Downtown West Bend Association, said she was notified about the missing piece when police knocked at her door at 8 a.m. Sunday.
“That piece was wired to the crib because of concerns it may go missing,” said Jensen. “We didn’t think it would go missing or be tampered with because the park is in the central part of the downtown.”
Questioned whether the rest of the nativity would remain in place through the Christmas holiday, Jensen said that had yet to be discussed.
Jensen will be picking up the remaining sections of the baby Jesus on Monday from West Bend police.
If anyone has information they’re encouraged to call West Bend Police at 262-335-5005 or the Downtown West Bend Association at 262-338-3909.
This is not the first time the nativity has been vandalized but it is the most severe. On a history note – below is an article from Around the Bend, Dec. 3, 2013 when the donkey was stolen from the nativity. The baby Jesus was also stolen sometime in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s however it was found and returned.
Donkey stolen from nativity in West Bend Dec. 3, 2013
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.
Below is a story from when the nativity was originally put in place this year.
Nov. 20, 2017 – 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 and over the last two years it spent time the front yard of Bits ‘n’ Pieces Floral on S. Main Street.
This year the Downtown West Bend Association rented Old Settler’s Park for the season and set up the nativity along with a forest of decorative trees.
A big thanks to local donors for helping make the display possible including West Bend Elevator, Meadowbrook Pumpkin Farm and Stein’s Garden & Home.
A look behind the scenes on Tuesday.