Woodworkers Make Nativity Scene Whole

Workers at Park Woodworking in Lorton replaced Pat and Richard Yost's stolen nativity scene.
Workers at Park Woodworking in Lorton replaced Pat and Richard Yost's stolen nativity scene. (Courtesy Richard Yost)
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 3, 2008

The holiday season might be over, but the spirit of Christmas lives on in Fairfax County, where employees of a millworking company have replaced life-size Nativity scene figures that were stolen last week from the front yard of a West Springfield couple.

Richard and Pat Yost said the three main figures -- Jesus, Mary and Joseph -- were robbed from the wooden Nativity scene they have erected for the past 42 years. The Yosts, who built and painted the display, woke up Christmas Eve to find the figures gone.

The Yosts created the scene, which includes the wise men, a shepherd and sheep, when they lived in Dayton, Ohio, and it moved with them to West Springfield 40 years ago.

The heartbroken Yosts and their seven children and 12 grandchildren spent Christmas day searching nearby neighborhoods, e-mailing community groups and calling police, but to no avail.

Then Mike Ellis, an employee of Park Woodworking Inc. in Lorton, read about their plight in The Washington Post on Dec. 26 and swung into action. He got permission from his boss to use company material and equipment to make new figures for the Yosts.

Using plans that the Yosts had kept, Ellis and employee Gino Collantes labored over the weekend to reproduce the figures. Sybil Woodall, the wife of another employee, painted them, Ellis said.

It took about 12 hours, and Ellis installed the replacement figures Monday.

"I just felt sorry" for the Yosts, said Ellis, who like the Yosts is Roman Catholic. "And I wanted to be able to replace something that was very dear to them."

Yesterday afternoon, a smiling Richard Yost showed off the replacement figures: a haloed Mary cradling the infant Jesus with a brown-robed Joseph standing by her side. "They look just like the originals," said Yost, 77. He said he plans to leave the display up a little longer than usual, until sometime next week.

The Yosts' Nativity scene wasn't the only one to fall victim to a Grinch. Across the country this holiday season, the Catholic League reported, homes in two dozen states had Nativity scene figures stolen or vandalized. In one Ohio community, 12 baby Jesus figures were stolen in one day.

Fairfax County police spokeswoman Camille Neville said such displays, like any other property left unattended, are vulnerable.

"It is property that you're leaving outside in the open, and you just have to hope that people will respect it . . . and leave it alone," she said.

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