ALTAMONT — The feeling of Christmas filled the air Sunday afternoon as the St. Paul (Blue Point) Lutheran Church Ladies Aid hosted a Christmas walk.

The Christmas walk was held as part of the church’s 150th anniversary celebration this year.

Walkers were able to explore four decorated houses owned by descendants of the original founding members of the church 150 years ago.

Each decorated home had a theme.

The theme for Mike and Anita Ziegler’s home was “Simply Christmas”; Larry Wachtel, “Christmas Lights”; Linda Schmidt, “Christmas Around the World”; and Doug and Elaine Kopplin, “Family-Focused Christmas.”

“I try very hard to be very simple,” Anita Ziegler said. “I don’t know how other people decorate, but it’s just my style.”

“Less is more,” Ziegler added.

Ziegler said she started preparing for the Christmas walk a month ago.

“I travel for work, so I had to start early,” Ziegler said. “I try to edit things so there is not too much.”

Another stop on the Christmas walk was the home of Larry Wachtel near Lake Sara. Wachtel’s maternal great-grandfather Ziegler was a founding father of the St. Paul (Blue Point) Lutheran Church, along with his paternal great-grandfather, Herman Vordenfeld.

It’s hard to miss Wachtel’s house with a large Nativity scene, strands of lights accenting the exterior of the house and a yard full of snowmen and Christmas characters. Electronic candlelights line both sides of the driveway from the road to the house.

“Everything I do is in lights,” Wachtel said. “I buy Christmas decorations that have lights.”

Wachtel said artistic people decorate in other ways.

“I’m just into lights everywhere,” he said.

Wachtel has several lighted Nativity scenes around his home — some handed down to him from family members over the years and one he purchased while he was on vacation in Jerusalem. He also has a Nativity scene his parents gave his Aunt Lydia Wachtel in 1960. After her death, Wachtel became the owner of the scene.

Another Nativity scene in his front room he purchased from a store in downtown Effingham in the 1950s. Wachtel said the Nativity was his oldest, with pieces from the 1950s and a barn that had to be replaced a couple of times over the years.

Another Christmas decoration from the same time period Wachtel displays on his bedroom headboard — a string of old Bubble Lights.

Among the snowman characters adorning Wachtel’s yard is one that has a special place in his family history. Purchased from a Sears in Mt. Vernon, the snowman was stolen on a couple of occasions. However, it was mysteriously brought back to his front porch each time before the next year’s Christmas display.

“This snowman is making its 50th appearance at a Wachtel home,” Wachtel said. “It may be a little faded and I had to fix the top of his hat a few times, but it still works.”

On a table in his basement, Wachtel has a toy farm scene he was given to complement his American Flyers electric train set he had growing up. Also on display in the basement is a seven-light candelabra that was given to his parents by Aunt Lydia Wachtel prior to Christmas 1951.

Even one of his bathrooms is decorated — with a little Christmas humor. Christmas songs and comical words are triggered to play as you move around the room and a snowman figure holding a plunger is placed above the toilet.

Kim Hammer, president of St. Paul (Blue Point) Lutheran Church Ladies Aid group, said Sunday marked the first time the group hosted a walk.

“We typically do a cookie walk every year only for our congregation,” she said.

Hammer said one of the ladies in the group suggested having a Christmas walk this year, with the funds generated to help pay for restoration of a 1954 stained-glass window.

“I don’t think the Christmas walk is something we’ll do every year,” Hammer said. “The cookie walk I’m sure we will continue every year.”

Hammer said 24 ladies help put the Christmas and cookie walk together.

“We have full participation of all of the members,” Hammer said. “We’ve been working on it since October.”

“We all baked two dozen cookies,” Hammer added.

In addition to having a cookie walk set up in the parish hall, the Ladies Aid group had a room with 42 Nativity scenes displayed. A bazaar also was set up with crafts and baked goods.

“It’s definitely been a group effort,” Hammer said.

Selling drinks at the church were a couple of members of the Lutheran Youth Fellowship. The LYF church group has eight members.

“We are fundraising for a new Nativity scene we are purchasing for the church,” LYF member Ada Tappendorf said.

Tappendorf said once the Nativity scene is purchased, it will be put on display in the church yard.

Charles Mills can be reached at or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.


Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.

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