Kansas winds batter all equally, and such was the case with plastic Nativity figurines that once adorned the lawn of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Tampa, surrounded by a makeshift stable made of hay bales.
“One wise man had his head screwed together so many times because it was getting blown off,” pastor Clark Davis said. “The old one had a horrible time with Kansas wind. We had to put bricks in the bottom of them.”
That changed about two years ago, when it was out with the old and in with the new, thanks to memorial donations honoring the memories of Myron and Cynthia Bentz.
Myron, a lifelong resident of the Tampa and Ramona areas, married Cynthia, of Lindsborg, in 1975, and they were raising four children on their family farm near Tampa, Turkey Creek Cattle and Grain, and were members of St. John’s.
Tragedy struck in 1997 when Myron, 45, died in a farming accident. St. John’s wasn’t large enough to hold all of the people who came to his funeral; the overflow watched a video link across the street in the Catholic church.
Cynthia continued operating the farm, and eventually moved back to Lindsborg, where she died in 2012.
They did much more than attend services at St. John’s. Myron taught Sunday school and served as secretary, treasurer, and elder. He also was district president of International Lutherans Layman’s League, and president of the Aid Association for Lutherans. Cynthia was a member for more than 30 years, serving in various church organizations, in children’s ministry, and giving musical performances.
Cynthia also collected crèches, Davis said, and with St. John’s designated as the recipient of memorials, her children — Crysta, Dawn, Paul, and Carl — decided a new crèche would be a fitting honor for their parents.
The task of selecting the crèche fell to Dawn, who called Davis one day to let him know it was on its way.
“It just arrived by truck one day,” Davis said. “I never did ask what it costs. The creator of it is an Italian company; they’ve been producing these for centuries.”
The intricately detailed ceramic figurines, painted in rich earth tones, are a far cry from the plastic ones they replaced. They’re displayed in and around a wood frame stable, and in deference to Kansas winds, several of the larger figures are anchored to the frame with wire.
But not before the wind took its toll on this set, too.
“Dawn replaced the lamb,” Davis said. “In a windstorm one of the other figures had been blown over on it.”
The face of the lamb was shattered, but Davis didn’t discard it when the new one arrived. It’s still part of the display, placed with its head hidden behind one of the wise men.
Davis said the display of two young parents with their infant son was a fitting tribute to the Bentzs.
“It reflects the love of four children for their mother and father, both of whom died young,” he said.