Spirit of the season

December 16, 2012

DELPHOS — There’s an extra holiday glow over Delphos these days as the memory of Betty Honingford lights up that city.

Her daughter Bev Jettinghoff, and Bev’s friend Meghan Ryba, lit the fire under many residents to take part in the first annual Betty Honingford Memorial Light Contest.

“My mom died two years ago, but when she was living, we would always take a trip to Bluffton to see the Blaze of Lights. We admired that and always said we should do something like that in Delphos,” Jettinghoff said.

But life went on and the organized light show got put on the back burner.

When Betty died two years ago at the age of 83 years, her daughter couldn’t bear the thought of an organized holiday light display.

“Then my friend Meghan moved here. She is from Youngstown, and misses her family across the state. She was telling me about a decorating competition they hold there, and her input and excitement pushed me to remember the lights I had talked about with my mother. Since two years have now passed, it was something I could consider doing,” Jettinghoff said.

“My mom was into all holidays, but especially Christmas. She taught us all the true meaning of Christmas. She worked at the nursing home (Van Crest) until she was 80. She always had us adopting a family at Christmas or taking names off a tree, or giving fruit baskets. She really had a history of giving. But, she liked the fun too,” Jettinghoff said.

To honor that fun spirit, Jettinghoff and Ryba began planning an organized lighting contest just after Thanksgiving. “We were worried that no one would take part, but we had 16 houses sign up to participate this year,” she said.

While there are many houses with holiday lights in Delphos, the 16 participating in this contest are going for cash prizes, and bragging rights.

“We have one house on Third Street that puts Clark Griswold to shame,” Jettinghoff said. In fact, Clark Griswold was one of the judging categories from which homeowners could choose. Others included religious, nostalgic and white elegance. For those unable to decorate outdoors, there’s also an “inside/out” category that judges on the best indoor display that can be seen outdoors.

Judges were brought in, and votes tallied by a local accounting firm.

But more than the cash awards, the first year of the Betty Honingford Memorial brought to life the spirit of Betty.

“I think at the very bottom of everything, these holiday lights prove that people have hope and optimism. If you were lucky to be raised in a good family, you have hope and always think the best of everyone,” Jettinghoff said.

And her mother definitely had hope and optimism.

“We were raised very modestly, and Mom always made the most of everything,” Jettinghoff said. “She always made everything special. She would wrap presents and tie ribbon around them so tight it was all you could do to get them opened. Or, she would string a lot of presents together so that no child could open one without disturbing the others. She was just a fun, good person,” her daughter added.

And the lights do have a way of making people happy.

“I think Christmas lights increase your own spirit, and everyone else’s too,” Jettinghoff said.

Her mother would be so proud.