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The Daily



12-13-03: St. Henry woman shares her Christmas

Prized collectible villages on display for Mercer County community


ST. HENRY — Dorothy Bruns had no idea her first purchase of quaint New England village buildings would launch a collection that is too big to display in her two-bedroom apartment.
She has made arrangements to display the prized Department 56 collectibles at the Granville Township Branch Library in St. Henry throughout the holiday season.
“I was raised to believe you should share the things you love,” Bruns says. “So you might consider this my Christmas gift to the community.”
Bruns, who worked as a program analyst with the U.S. Navy/Department of Defense for more than 30 years, fell in love with the lighted ceramic buildings during a visit to a Leesburg, Va., gift shop.
Wracked with indecision, she eventually left the shop empty handed, only to return later and purchase eight pieces in the New England village series. The company, headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minn., had launched the popular series two years earlier in 1984.
“I bought the first seven pieces as well as the log cabin called Timber Knoll,” Bruns says. “It’s probably my favorite of the nearly 100 buildings in the collection. There is something about log cabins — perhaps it’s the sheer simplicity — that appeals to me.”
The introductory set included the apothecary shop, Stoney Brook town hall, Moggin Falls General Store, livery stable and boot shop, Nathaniel Bingham Fabrics, the schoolhouse and Steeple Church. They are the kinds of establishments commonly found in communities during bygone times.
The gift shop notified Bruns as Department 56 released annual offerings. In addition to building replicas iced with snow and decked with wreaths or Christmas finery, she purchased 140 sets of accessories that add a realistic touch.
Cows graze near the Pennsylvania Dutch barn while the dapper mayor, complete with eye-catching red earmuffs, stands outside the town hall welcoming residents and visitors. The iceman cometh at the Blue Star Ice Co. and warmly clad skaters whirl across the surface of an icy pond. Men and women tote buckets and stir kettles as maple sugaring activities unfold. Townspeople armed with old-fashioned Christmas lights head for the towering tree while pot-bellied stoves adorn the porch of Hudson Stoveworks. Woolly fleeces await processing at Smythe Woolen Works while freshly-shorn lambs kick up their heels. A lonely chimney sweep heads toward home carrying a sooty broom over his shoulder. One can almost hear his feet crunch on the new-fallen snow created with carefully placed Fiberfill.
“I have friends in New England and I’ve been to that area several times,” she says. “Maybe that’s why I find the village so enchanting. It certainly brings back pleasant memories of my travels.”
Bruns chuckles, pointing out her penchant for collecting is not limited to one village. She added the North Pole series promoting the legend of Santa Claus as well as the Little Town of Bethlehem set celebrating “the real reason for the season” in later years. More than a dozen caroler statues, each depicting lines of favorite Christmas songs, represent yet another interest.
Following retirement in 1992, she returned to her native St. Henry, bringing all the collectibles with her in their original boxes. She remembers investing considerable time in cataloging the lot for insurance purposes.
“I would put some of the houses out during the holiday season and visitors loved them,” she says. “Then I stopped but they continued asking when the houses were going up. There just isn’t enough room in my apartment for all of them.”
Bruns contacted library officials about hosting her display during the recent Christmas Tour of Homes and throughout the holiday season. They quickly offered the inviting adult reading room as well as a glass display case running the length of the front entrance.
“I had really good helpers when it came to arranging everything,” she says. “You should see what lurks beneath these tables. There is a maze of electric cords because each building has its own light.”
Bruns vows not to purchase more collectibles. However, a smile tugs at the corners of her mouth as she speaks about a much-anticipated trip to the Oak and Barn, a popular Lima-area gift shop.
“Every year I tell myself no more,” she says. “But I always find at least one or two things I simply can’t live without.”
Bruns smiles like a proud mother as visitors pause before her display and “ooh and aah.”
“Life is supposed to be about sharing,” she says. “I collect these things because I enjoy them. Now other people can too.”


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