A 100-year-old nativity scene was headed to the dumpster. But now, instead, it has been restored to its full glory.
On top of that, artist Tonya Sauppe was able to reconnect with its previous owner and fulfill a long-held wish.
“It touches me beyond words,” said Tonya Sauppe, who remade the nativity scene. “We love it.”
Sauppe’s story will make you emotional, but that’s not where the story starts.
The story starts with Ina Lennon.
She was 18 when her father, Fredrick Vincent Sherrell, got a job as a bookkeeper at a bank in Joliet, Illinois, a small town outside of Chicago.
The nativity set was on display in the window in the 1950s.
“Oh, it was beautiful,” said Lennon, who is now 90 years old.
The bank owner wanted to get rid of it, but Sherrell said no. He took it out of the window display and brought it home to his family instead.
Lennon held onto it, but about 17 years ago, she donated it. Time had done a number on the set, including surviving a flood in Joliet.
Lennon left a note attached to it that said if anyone ever remade it to please invite her to see it.
The significance of the figurines never faded, and Sauppe saw that, so she stored them away with the hope of using her skills to remodel them.
She forgot about the set until this year.
“And my husband said, ‘it says nativity scene,’ and I said, ‘well, bring it down,’” Sauppe said.
To say that it ended up in the right hands is, to say the least.
“I recreate whatever I’m in the mood for,” Sauppe said.
Sauppe spends her days meticulously creating, painting, and designing almost everything in her home, including 12 Christmas trees on display now.
Only Sauppe could handle the work of restoring the nativity set.
“One piece at a time, I fixed it,” she said.
It took her six weeks.
And not only did she restore it, but Lennon’s wish came true, connecting with her and inviting her to see it.
And at 91, nearly 80 years after Lennon first saw it, she got to see it in a whole new light.