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Dazzling display returns in memory of Millie
Jerry Klein has once again gone all out to decorate his home for Christmas. But for the first time in almost three decades, he had to do it without his wife, Millie.
“When Millie passed away this summer, everyone wondered about the Christmas house,” Klein said. “Would I be able to continue our long tradition and decorate the home for all to enjoy at least once more?”
He ultimately decided to carry on the tradition for a 27th year. His home is now “decked out with all the lights, displays and live characters Millie and I enjoyed sharing” with the community.
It takes many weeks to set up the elaborate display. This year, Klein began in early November and was aided by volunteers.
“I don't work hard at it,” he said. “When you start out, it doesn't look like much. I take my time and it comes together pretty good. I get a little help, and all of a sudden it looks like something.”
Klein's home is located at 2101 W. 25th St. near Julieanna's Patio Cafe. During the holiday season, the display is on nightly from 6 to 10 p.m.
From 7 to 9 p.m. Christmas Eve, Klein welcomes Yuma-area residents to come and enjoy his colorful light display and meet Santa Claus.
“Please join us once more knowing that something is missing,” Klein said. “Millie is gone, but her spirit lives on and this tradition will try to live on, too. I am just trying to express to the people that she is gone, and we are certainly going to miss her.”
Millie was “the driving force” behind the display, Klein continued. “She loved it very much and that is why I am doing it, especially this year, to honor the memory of her.”
While she was alive, Millie greatly enjoyed watching the families who came to admire her front yard during the holidays.
“It's been interesting to see some of the little children who always stopped by are now grown up and bring their own children — even grandchildren — to see everything,” she told the Yuma Sun years before her death.
The Kleins' Christmas decoration collection has grown dramatically since they began the tradition almost 30 years ago.
“In the beginning we had very little,” Millie had said. “We started with strings of lights, and kept adding more. Then came the cartoon characters that I made and painted. We used to cut out our own figures from plywood and then paint them. Now we have a lot of prefabricated decorations.”
The decorations, which are rotated each year, include a 6-foot-tall Barney, Donald Duck, Nemo, Winnie the Pooh, a 7-foot-tall Santa, animated reindeer and thousands of lights.
“I also have a nativity scene that I put together every year,” Millie once said, noting she did not put a baby Jesus figure in the manger until Christmas Day.
The Kleins, former co-owners of Klein's Kustom Electric of Yuma, continued to build the Christmas display every year “for the community, for the children and all the people that come by that enjoy it,” he explained.
“They get a lot out of it, and it makes me feel good to see those people enjoying it the way they do. We just thank everybody for coming by for so many years the way they have been doing.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.