Wolfe family donates unique, seasonal items for auctionA sale event starting next week warrants ‘news status’ with its combination of seasonal appeal, well-known donors, a local church and dozens of Nativity scenes -- also called manger sets, cribs, and, in French, crèches.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
A sale event starting next week warrants ‘news status’ with its combination of seasonal appeal, well-known donors, a local church and dozens of Nativity scenes -- also called manger sets, cribs, and, in French, crèches.
The children of Wayne and Marian Wolfe decided while settling their parents’ estate to donate the bulk of their mother’s Nativity-scene collection to the First Congregational United Church of Christ.
Their son, Charles Wolfe, said, “My parents were members of that church since we came to River Falls in 1950.”
He and wife Mary recently moved from Madison back to her hometown of Prescott.
They and First Congregational pastor Chris Myers say an auction of about 60 different sets runs now until 11:45 a.m.Dec. 2. People can bid 9-11:45 a.m. Sundays; 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; and 8:30 a.m.-noon Fridays.
Bidders register an offer by putting their name and phone number on a sheet. The Wolfes and Myers say some minimum bids begin as low as $5.
Many in River Falls knew the Wolfes as longtime supporters of the community and the church.
Marian died in late December 2011 at age 90, and Wayne died last May at age 93. There were married nearly 70 years and were often seen out together.
Wayne worked at UW-River Falls for 35 years, starting when it consisted of only two buildings. He served as vice chancellor, journalism professor, public relations director and yearbook and student newspaper advisor, among other duties.
He also served in the U.S. Army and worked his way to a doctorate degree, specializing in Latin American studies.
Marian is the daughter of a pastor, and she met her husband at a church-related event. She raised two daughters and two sons -- Warren, Charles, Mary and Kate plus a foreign exchange student from Australia who became like a son -- and often accompanied Wayne on his extensive foreign travels both during his career and after retirement.
Charles said, “Their retirement goal was to do as much traveling as they could while their health was still good.”
He says the two went many times to Mexico and South America, Peru, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Germany, the Mediterranean, Greece, Nicaragua, Jamaica, the West Indies, and others. They often bought items from bazaars where fair-trade artisans could display their crafts.
Charles doesn’t know exactly when “the collection” began, but he and wife Mary know Marian collected the crèches for as long as they can remember and displayed them all every Christmas.
He said the Nativity scenes sat everywhere in the house -- windowsills, the bathroom, dining room, kitchen. Sometimes his mother toted a few to meetings or group activities, plus many people saw them as they visited the Wolfes’ home.
Marian also took the manger sets with her and Wayne when they traveled south for the winter and holidays. Charles said she had a few that were great for traveling, including fold-away and pop-up types.
He and Mary say not all of the sets came from foreign countries, and many are ones others brought her as gifts.
They didn’t count all the different Nativity scenes, but Charles estimates, “She had well over 200 of them.”
Each of the Wolfe children kept a few that were special to them. Charles, who grew up in River Falls, suggested he and his siblings donate the other sets.
The idea of an auction benefitting the church seemed not only to fit well but also solve long-term storage problems. He said the family gave some Nativity sets to Treasures from the Heart and Second Chances in River Falls, as well as a charity store in Hudson.
Myers said the church kept a few for display and education, leaving about 60 sets to be auctioned. They range from tiny ones to yard-sized displays, tabletop to art-like hung versions.
The Wolfes and Myers confirm that the auction proceeds will go toward the new addition the church finished recently.
Charles knows his mother was one of the people to say “do it” when the church was wrestling with whether to make the huge financial commitment of a building addition.
Myers remembers the meeting when Marian stood and gave a rousing speech about how the decision wasn’t just about money but about the future -- that the moment and generation were “now.”
“She just had this faithful, humble way of crystalizing what was really at stake,” Myers said.
While he’s glad for the family’s donation, he’s also glad to be part of a plan that ultimately means all the sets will continue to be used. They aren’t something that should just sit in a box, he said.