Warner Robins grandfather’s Christmas spirit lives on despite theft of decorations

bpurser@macon.comDecember 13, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Larry Reichman has been decorating his Avalon Drive home for Christmas with gusto since he and his family moved here 14 years ago.

The 54-year-old grandfather even receives decorations for his birthday Nov. 21 because family and friends know how much it means to him to light his corner of the world with holiday cheer.

“It’s lit up like a runway at the base,” said Reichman, a sheet metal work leader at Robins Air Force Base who recently started working swing shifts to help baby-sit his infant grandson, Luke.

The decorations are on from dusk until 10 p.m.

But Monday night, somebody stole several of those decorations -- including an 8-foot inflated hot air balloon yanked down from a tree, and lighted spiral Christmas trees and animated deer ripped from his lawn. Other decorations left behind in the heist were damaged.

In all, about $500 worth of decorations was stolen. Reichman said he’s not sure about the cost in damages. But he said it really doesn’t matter.

“You can’t put a value on Christmas,” Reichman said. “They stole a lot of people’s Christmas.”

Reichman explained the decorations are his gift to his neighbors -- including two children with muscular dystrophy who often come to his yard to view his holiday display.

Since discovering the theft early Tuesday, Reichman added something to what’s left of the yard display: a sign decorated with lights that says, “Thank a thief.”

He plans to leave the sign up through New Year’s Eve. And he’s not planning on fixing or replacing what’s stolen -- at least not until next year.

“If they’d just knocked on my door, I’d have given them something,” Reichman said of whomever stole the decorations. “I have plenty.”

Neighbor AnnJeanette Baptiste said she was heartbroken when she saw his sign and missed the decorations.

The 39-year-old school nurse said she also understood the need for the sign: someone broke into her family’s home a few years ago. She said she felt violated and wanted to put up a sign, too. Hers wouldn’t have been worded so nicely, she added.

Baptiste noted she’s stopped at the intersection of Avalon and Gawin drives where Reichman’s home is located on her way to work for years. Her son has viewed the display every Christmas from age 2 to now 14, she said.

“It just broke my heart,” said Baptiste, who was moved to write Reichman, whom she’s never met, a letter. “I didn’t want this to ruin his Christmas. ... He’s brought us so much joy over the years.”

The handwritten letter stated in part, “I am sure you are angry and discouraged. But my prayer for you this Christmas time is to not allow this to affect your joy.”

She was joined by three others who have left notes and letters for Reichman.

“We’re just treating them like Christmas cards,” he said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call bpurser@macon.com.

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