On Dec. 14, 1915, Bob Baum was born into a family in the town of Freeland in northeastern Pennsylvania.
That Christmas, little Bob’s mother hung an ornament on their tree. It was a small, wooden cat with the name “Felix” printed on the chest.
More than 96 years later, this newspaper editor received a call from Bob’s wife, Lois, who had seen The Tribune-Democrat’s holiday series on ornaments and decorations that have special meaning to readers.
Lois and Bob had an ornament that might fit well with the “Christmas Traditions” series, she said.
She was right.
Their story is one of many shared with us and then thousands of others during the series – which concluded Saturday to coincide with Orthodox Christmas.
And each of those short stories and accompanying pictures helped remind us here, and hopefully also many of you who encountered them on our front page, of how important family traditions and experiences associated with Christmas are to people of this region.
The ornament idea came from Publisher Robin L. Quillon, who in mid-December wondered if our readers might want to share some of their personal holiday favorites with us.
We asked readers to send us pictures of their most meaningful decorations along with short stories about those Christmas items.
Within days, we had received nearly 40 submissions.
Because we received so many great stories, what we thought might be a week-
long series leading up to Dec. 25 was extended into January.
You can read all of the stories – including some we weren’t able to print in the newspaper – and view the submitted photographs on our website – www.tribdem.com.
We received ornament stories from communities across this region, including Ebensburg, Hollsopple, Seward, Indian Lake, Davidsville, Westmont, Loretto and Johnstown.
They arrived from faraway places such as Hartsville, S.C., and Palm Beach Gardens,
And together they tell the story of the power of memories and relationships, of connecting with the past even at Christmas present.
I visited Bob and Lois Baum, even as our “Christmas Traditions” series was wrapping up.
They are lovely people who live in the Johnstown home where they raised their own family.
And each Christmas, Felix finds a special place on their tree and in their hearts.
“That is the first ornament to go on the tree every year,” said Lois, who is 91.
Bob celebrated his 96th birthday last month.
Which means 96 times that special ornament hung from the boughs of a Christmas tree in his home.
“My first Christmas, my mother put that on the tree,” he said, holding the Felix ornament in his hand.
“It’s been on a tree every year since.
“The only time that I remember that I didn’t do it was when I was serving Uncle Sam,” Bob added.
“But I know my mother took care of it when I was gone.”
Merry Christmas and happy New Year to Bob and Lois Baum. Thanks for sharing that wonderful story.
And Merry Christmas and happy New Year to everyone who contributed a personal story to our “Christmas Traditions” series.
At least for this grumpy, cynical newspaper editor, your stories gave this holiday season special meaning.
Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5091.