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Lighting up the neighborhood

Every December, Ralph Jones drives across town to the A-1 Mini Warehouses with a borrowed trailer hitched to his truck.

He unlocks his storage unit and slides open the metal door. Dusty boxes of Christmas lights, inflatable lawn decorations, Christmas trees and a plastic nativity scene sit in the dark.

It is like opening Santa’s tomb.

Jones loads the trailer, usually with the help of a friend, and drives back across town to his house at 217 Pine Needle Drive where he begins the two-week process of decorating for Christmas.

“We kinda get into doing Christmas right,” Jones said. “We just wanted to do it as a means to give back to the community.”

Jones and his wife, Gerry, have been decorating for Christmas for as long as they can remember. The couple moved from Dallas, Texas, to a house on Butler Street about 13 years ago. They hung lights from the eave of the house, placed Santa and his reindeer on the grass and stood sparkling Christmas trees just inside the windows.

When the Jones’ neighbor, Johnny Brown, began decorating his yard, people thought a feud was brewing.

“That really wasn’t the case at all,” Jones said.

The friends just let people think whatever they wanted. Sometimes, they would share a smile as cars drove along the street.

Families drove past just to catch a glimpse of the Jones’ house shining brighter than creation is dark.

“We saw a fantastic response,” Jones said. “What makes it all worthwhile is when you see families drive by with little kids in the car, and you see the expressions on their faces and the oohs and aahs.”

So, when the couple moved to their current residence, they kept up the tradition.

“We just put it all together and change a few things up each year,” he said.

Peggy Williamson has lived at 221 Cone Dr. since the Joneses moved across the street. She can look out her window and see the Jones’ yard illuminating the neighborhood.

“They go to a lot of trouble to put that up,” Williamson said. “The children really enjoy seeing it.”

The couple’s impressive collection now features an airplane with Santa in the cockpit, a sleigh and reindeer driven by Snoopy and a giant, snow globe Christmas carousel. Gerry decorates four Christmas trees inside and one on the patio.

“You gotta give mama credit where credit is due,” Ralph said.

The couple no longer climbs ladders or hangs lights from the roof. There are plenty of friends to help. Ralph will be 78 years old in January, and Gerry will be 76 in February.

“But I don’t claim it,” she shouted as Ralph spoke on the phone.

They still work with as much care and detail to make their home pretty as a picture every year.

Each night as the sun lowers in the sky, larger than life snow globes rise and inflate, icicle lights glow along the eaves of the house and a spotlight shines on a nativity scene at the edge of the yard.

It is not the work of elves. It is a couple of retired government employees determined to make some Christmas magic.

“That’s where the beauty is,” Jones said. “It makes all the difference in the world with the lights on.”