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You don’t have to guess what time of year it is at Terry and Norma Bokowski’s house.

Festively decorated trees, delicate Nativity sets and angels, merry Santas, quaint old-time churches and smiling snowmen adorn their Fremont home.

Bokowski estimates he has 70 trees, mostly small, but which also include 14, 6-foot trees. There are 120 Nativity scenes and ornaments and 25 churches.

The Bokowskis have been decking the halls of their home for a long time.

“We’ve done it for 49 years and it (the decorating) grows every year,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Bokowskis hosted an open house, attended by more than 50 people.

“That was really crowded,” Bokowski said, smiling.

Why do all this?

“I just love Christmas — the families getting together,” he said. “And I’ve always liked decorating.”

Bokowski’s decorative endeavors probably began when he was 9 years old. That’s when he made his first Nativity scene from a cylindrical, cardboard Quaker Oats container. The scene included Mary and Joseph with cloth garments.

“Sadly, I don’t have it anymore, but I’ve got my grandmother’s Nativity,” he said.

He also still has the original box she packed it in — a cardboard turkey box with a lid — back when the birds came in boxes.

Bokowski, who said he’s always had artistic interests, did some decorating when he was young.

From 1964-68, he worked for Greens Florist, where he learned how to design floral arrangements. He won several trophies for his work.

Bokowski met his future wife when he came to her downtown Fremont ceramics shop to learn the craft and began helping out in her store.

They married in 1968.

That year, they gave three, large-size figures of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus to their church, First United Methodist.

One year, Bokowski bought a tiny Nativity from a missionary who came to speak at the church.

Carved out of stone, the tiny Nativity is only about an inch tall. It’s his smallest Nativity. He’s also collected wooden, glass and ceramic Nativity sets.

Bokowski has collected many other Christmas-related items, too, including lots of trees — some of which reflect the couple’s interests or times in their lives.

A patriotic tree in their kitchen features ornaments from the White House Association and is decked out in red, white and blue. Nearby is a tree with gingerbread ornaments.

In the living room, the couple has a “memory tree” with ornaments featuring the photographs of loved ones they’ve lost throughout the years. That tree is near a display of family wedding photos.

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The room also has a tree with white, acrylic roses that light up.

Other trees have specific themes, like one adorned with pink ribbons and ornaments from when she had breast cancer in 2008.

Another tree features cloth, metal and wooden angel ornaments.

“She collects angels and she started with me,” Bokowski said, smiling.

Football fans might cheer the Husker tree, decorated with birch, large pine cones and ornaments.

Cowboys might take a liking to a horseshoe tree welded together by a 96-year-old man, while folks with a Swedish heritage might think a tree decorated with the traditional straw ornaments is underbar (wonderful).

A display of small, old-time churches — including a lighted one made of stained glass — can bring a wave of nostalgia to some guests.

Sleds, snowflakes and nutcrackers add to festive atmosphere.

It takes Bokowski between four and five days to decorate, so he starts in November. His wife helps him take down the decorations in mid-January.

Before long, Bokowski will start decorating for Valentine’s Day. And while he doesn’t decorate as much for that holiday, he adds that he and Norma got engaged that day.

The couple, who have two sons and five grandchildren, plan to continue their holiday decorating tradition for as long as they can.

“It gets you in the spirit,” he said.


News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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