OTTAWA — The Ottawa Kiwanis Club wanted to make sure the memory of the original owner of Our Lord’s Park, Theodore Chifos, was kept alive.
The club purchased a nativity scene to share with others his passion for the park, his faith and religion.
Kiwanis member Nancy Kline was approached by longtime Ottawa resident Betty Wannemacher to see if there was interest in putting a nativity scene in the park.
“It’s a no-brainer. If you have Our Lord’s Park, there should be a nativity scene,” Wannemacher said.
Kline contacted the village of Ottawa because she knew the village owned the property, and the village allowed the Kiwanis to display the nativity scene. It is at the corner of Walnut and West Main Streets across from The Schnipke Inn. The property was donated to the village by Chifos on Sept. 10, 1976.
The Kiwanis members set up the display the day after Thanksgiving and it will be available to be viewed through the first of the year. The Joseph Studio nativity scene was purchased online and features baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, three kings, an angel and cow.
“I think it’s a good addition to the village. I have friends from other towns who are going to come here because it is such a pretty set,” Kline said.
The park has light sensors where the nativity scene can be visible at night.
Chifos, who died in 1983, was a Greek immigrant who came to the United States and moved to Ottawa in 1939. He was the owner and operator of the Hollywood Theatre in Ottawa until it closed down in the early 1970s.
Ottawa Kiwanis financial officer Ed Smidebush said there were enough funds in the club’s general operating fund that they could afford to purchase the nativity scene.
Smidebush, 86, recalls fond memories of visiting the theater during Christmas time as a child that Chifos owned.
“In the late 1930s, I remember going to his Christmas party for all of the children in Ottawa, and we all got a bag of candy at the theater and he would play cartoons for us on the theater screen,” Smidebush said.
Smidebush also said he remembered Chifos walking many miles in the streets of Ottawa, and that was when he would collect candy for the Christmas party.
Kendra Kuhlman, Ottawa Kiwanis president, said there previously had been a nativity scene in Ottawa.
“Our club thought it would be a good idea to bring the nativity back to Ottawa. We want people to know we can keep Christ in Christmas,” Kuhlman said.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.