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Thursday, December 21st, 2006

A humble window brings Christmas spirit

By Shelley Grieshop

Kit and Don Desch pose in front of the living room window their family painted t. . .

COLDWATER - Colorful poster paint and a big front window have led to more than a half century of tradition at the Don and Kit Desch home.
Motorists driving past the Elm Street home in Coldwater this year are treated to an image of the three wise men adoring the infant Jesus. Every Christmas season since 1950, religious or secular portraits have graced the couple's 5-by-5-foot, wood-framed window.
"We've never painted the same picture twice, although we've done the three kings quite a few times," Don Desch, 83, says. "They're (the kings) good for color."
More than five decades ago, the family decided to enter a contest in the village for the best decorated home. Instead of outlining their home with festive-colored lights, the artistic-minded couple grabbed paint and brushes and headed for the living room window. They won the contest and enjoyed the art project so much, they decided to make it an annual affair.
Over the years the Desch family grew to include seven children who eagerly added their own special touch to the holiday window. Daughter Katie Simpkins recalls holding a paintbrush and receiving instructions where to paint and what color to use.
"It was like a giant 'fill-in-the-numbers' page. Mom and Dad were the artists, they laid out the whole design," she explains. "A few of my talented older siblings helped with that responsibility, but I never got beyond the 'filling in' stage."
One of the best parts was when the job was complete, she says.
"The most exciting part of all was when nightfall came and Dad would turn on the spotlight outside so we could see our masterpiece illuminated for the first time," Simpkins says. "After our picture was taken, with us shivering in front of the transformed window, I would go inside and sit in the living room and stare at the beautiful scene from my own point of view."
Simpkins' daughter, Alex, 13, has helped continue the tradition each year since she was 5, along with other extended family members.
Don and Kit Desch, who have nine grandchildren, decided early on that a stained glass look works best, easily dividing the artwork into individual pieces. The couple mix their own paint, which somehow manages to make its way onto the curtains despite precautions, Kit Desch says with a sigh.
The images used each year often are borrowed from Christmas cards and applied freehand, usually by Don Desch.
Kit Desch leafs through the pages of a small album filled with photographs of previous year's paintings. Angels, a choir boy, Mary and baby Jesus, shepherds, Santa Claus, snowmen and even a Charlie Brown nativity scene once lavished the window.
Don Desch says his wife has a talent for sketching lambs.
"If you don't do it just right, they look like dogs or weasels," she adds with a laugh.
As the Desch family gathers around the Christmas tree this year, they once again will stand in awe at the simple window just feet away that has given them so many memories to cherish.
"Each year we think this will be the last time. But then Christmas rolls around again and we're back at it," Don Desch says.
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