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Display honors father

December 23, 2007|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Bernie Stotler taught his children that Christmas is about giving, and he considered decorating for the holiday a way of giving to kids of all ages.

After nearly half a century of lighting up the December nights, Bernie passed away in August.

Now his daughters ? Kim Pittman, Bea Shaw and Karen Barker ? are carrying on the tradition, creating Bernie's Winter Wonderland in his honor.

"Christmas was his favorite day of the year," said Pittman. "He would have hated it if we didn't do it."

And so, in October, as their father did for so many years, they began putting up the Christmas decorations.

Now the Stotler house on Hardwood Street, the outbuildings and yard, as well as their property across the street, are filled with Christmas sculptures and lights, including a dining-table-size metal helicopter on a 30-foot-pole.

He liked "anything for the kids," said Pittman.

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Also included is a Nativity scene, a train set, Santa Claus, a sleigh and reindeer, choir boys, a candy cane entrance, a "Season's Greetings" archway, a "Let It Snow" archway, a blinking stop light and much more.

Bernie began decorating with outside Christmas lights and sculptures 47 years ago, said his wife, Leona Stotler.

"It started out small and grew every year," she said.

"There are close to 200 individual pieces and thousands of lights," Shaw said, noting that her father "had a lot of patience putting everything up."

Shaw said he liked to use lights of different colors because he felt they gave the appearance of gumdrop trees.

This year, Pittman added outdoor Christmas music, so those checking out the decorations can hear a selection of 20 songs, including "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas."

She was able to provide the music as the result of a good deed.

About three weeks ago, Pittman found a purse in a grocery cart at a local food store. She said she found the woman's identification and called her. When they met so Pittman could give her the purse, the woman put what Pittman thought was a card in her pocket.

When she got home, Pittman discovered it was $60 in cash. Twenty dollars was all she had available for a music machine, but that gift enabled her to buy it, she said.

"We turned good into good," Pittman said.

Also displayed in the front yard is a sign Pittman made, with lights that spell out "In Memory of Daddy."

"This is a tribute to him. It's in his honor," Pittman said.

There's also a Bernie's Winter Wonderland sign, a gift from Pittman to Stotler about three years ago, she said.

Many people come by to see Bernie's Winter Wonderland, including local Senior Center members and residents from Valley View Nursing Home.

When the nursing home group came by, they visited with Santa and received treats, Pittman said.

Santa, played by Bernie's grandson, was on site on Friday evenings, and gave out candy, oranges and small gifts, she said.

Good memories

Bernie Stotler's favorite place to shop for Christmas sculptures was Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and in 2006, he went twice.

Leona Stotler said that as they prepared to go on vacation in August 2006 her husband told her, "but we better take the truck," and she knew why.

"Daddy bought so much, he even had to buy an extension for the back of the truck to haul back the Christmas sculptures," Pittman said.

Pittman said she made a trip with her father back to Pigeon Forge two weeks before Thanksgiving 2006, along with her husband, Greg, daughter, Hanna and older sister, Karen. On the way out of town, he said there was a shop he wanted to visit and they stopped.

"That's when he purchased the motorized part for the helicopter to make the lights blink," Pittman said.

Close to home

Bernie Stotler was 69 when he succumbed to heart failure.

He had been diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and retired from U.S. Silica Co. after 31 years of employment, Leona Stotler said.

He was a lifetime member of the Berkeley Springs Fire Department.

He is buried in Greenway Cemetery, not far from the family home. A tiny Christmas tree was to be placed on his grave.

At home, there is a special gift for the grandchildren, Leona Stotler said. This year, the stockings to be stuffed are "Pappy's" white socks, each with the child's name printed on it.

"It's something of Pappy's for them," she said.

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