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Vintage nativity lights up St. John’s Church

A vintage blow mold nativity at St. John’s Lutheran Church, donated by Gary Wolfe. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – For the past 15 years, Gary Wolfe has been on a mission to collect an entire lighted blow mold nativity. This year, his mission is complete and displayed in vintage splendor at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Wolfe, a Westfield resident, grew up in Southwick and always loved Christmas. He said his family did not have a lot, but Christmas was always special.

“My dad’s birthday was Dec. 15 and we always put up the tree on his birthday,” he recalled. “I guess I always decorated – I love Christmas.”

Wolfe said he always wanted a lighted nativity, but his blow mold mission did not start until he came across a few at a tag sale.

“It was about 15 years ago that I found Jesus, Mary and Joseph at a tag sale and started looking for more pieces,” said Wolfe.

Decorative blow mold manufacturing began in the 1940s, with their popularity increasing with the pink flamingo lawn ornaments in the 1950s. Blow molds were made by several manufacturers, but for Wolfe, the General Foam Plastics are the gold standard. The decorations went by the wayside and have made a comeback. The vintage molds are now a sought-after collectible, although there are still new decorations being produced, mainly in China.

Wolfe said his determination in finding additional General Foam pieces for his nativity began with local flea markets and estate sales and eventually took him to Bronner’s Christmas World in Michigan.

“Slowly, I began acquiring pieces,” said Wolfe, “and now I have the whole set.”

Wolfe’s nativity includes the Holy Family as well as an angel, shepherd and sheep, three wise men, a donkey, cow and camel.

He put the nativity at his home, but last year brought it to his church — St. John’s Lutheran Church on Broad Street – to share with the community.

“Jesus really is the reason for the season,” Wolfe said.

With help from friends and fellow parishoners Henry Monczka and the Talmadges, Wolfe’s nativity sits on the hill in front of the church once again this year.

“It really looks beautiful there and is a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas,” said Wolfe.

The nativity is lit each day from 4:30 p.m. to midnight, and again from 5-7 a.m.

“People have said they enjoy seeing it lit up in the early morning,” he said. “I hope others drive by and feel the Christmas spirit.”

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