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Merry Memories

Families open homes for a good cause

Under the Son Ministries Christmas Homes Tour raises funds to help students in Thailand

MARYVILLE, Mo. — As a way of supporting Under the Son Ministries, four local families opened their homes to the public on Sunday, offering a peek into their living spaces, Christmas traditions and holiday décor.

Pleased with the turnout, tour organizers Steve and Donella Sherry told The Forum Wednesday that 146 people briefly popped into the lives of homeowners: JR and Sarah Kurz; Paul and Cindy Kessler; Josh and Kim Lefeber; and Jacob Vollstedt and Victoria Hollar as part of the organization’s fourth annual Christmas Homes Tour.

Some tourists took part in the event alone taking their time traversing the old and new homes, getting a peek at every nook and cranny, while others paired with family and friends to see the holiday décor glimmer and shine in every home.

Jennifer and Meredith Adwell along with Lisa Goedken took their time at the Kessler home, checking out each detail with comment.

“Everything is so beautiful,” said Goedken.

Upon entering the Kesslers’ home, originally known as the Robinson Home, a classical revival built in 1904 by Nodaway Valley Bank president James B. Robinson, tourists were greeted by Joey Kessler who donned a top hat and punched tickets.

“Nine of the trees were given to us (on loan from) our realtor,” he told The Forum.

He was happy to direct viewers to take a gander at a few historic artifacts found in the home when the family moved in, and then upstairs to keep traffic flowing in one direction.

According to a history of the home handed out during the tour, the home was sold and was neglected until Shellie and Tim Faris rehabilitated it in the early 2000s.

“The current owners/caretakers intend to continue its progress to a beautiful yet comfortable livability,” the handout noted.

As described in the information sheet, the upstairs has four bedrooms, a study and a staircase to an attic space with “soaring 20-foot ceilings and beautiful front windows.” The attic was not available for viewing as it is still amid its transformation to livable space.

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Shown during Sunday’s Under the Son Ministries Christmas Homes Tour, the Kesslers' home was fully decorated. The second-floor landing has what homeowners believe to be the original rug. 

Cindy Kessler told The Forum that the first room on the left as you enter the second floor has what the family believes to be original wallpaper and carpet. With pink flowers and vines, the pattern nearly matches the pink floral carpet.

“The study used to be a dressing room for the lady of the house,” she said.

The master connects to the study and the study has a door that opens onto the veranda.

Each room upstairs has a transom, including each of the closets and this holiday season they were bedecked with elves just hanging around through them and on them waiting for the big day.

Decked out in Grinch Who Stole Christmas décor, the bathroom has original floor and wall tile, but with updated fixtures and a leaded window, one of several throughout the house.

Joey’s room is next, complete with a Christmas tree and shark tree topper, decorating the room with original built-in shelves and a sleeping porch, not open for viewing.

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The Christmas tree Joey Kessler’s room features action figures and a shark tree topper. His room was open to the public during Sunday’s Under the Son Ministries Christmas Homes Tour. His room in the house also has access to a sleeping porch original to the 1904 home. It was not open to the public.

The back staircase leads to the main floor and to a powder room, the back of the house and past a door to the basement which had once housed a coal furnace, sizable cellar and the kitchen at one point.

Following a hallway around to an updated kitchen, tour takers were treated with views of holiday cheer and by way of a butler’s pantry, the dining room featuring rounded windows and original woodwork and a large nearly floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree. Large pocket doors closed off the room from the hall and parlor, where a white sofa, also original, sits.

Classically decorated with wreaths and garland, the outside of the home is where Paul Kessler and son Billy were spending the warm afternoon.

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Paul and Cindy Kessler’s home is shown during Sunday’s Under the Son Ministries Christmas Homes Tour. Their son Billy Kessler poses on the front porch just in time for this photo.

“It’s got a lot of character,” he said. “The woodworking on the first floor, I can’t imagine somebody doing that all by hand 120 years ago.”

Just into the family’s second year owning the home, Paul told The Forum it was exactly what they had been looking for when moving to town. Cindy said they took last year’s tour and were pleased to be able to open their doors to the tour.

Steve Sherry with Under the Son Ministries was on hand at the Kesslers’ and said it was great the family was willing to join the tour.

“People were always wanting to get a peek at this one,” Sherry said.

One of the newer homes on the tour, the Kurz home, located at 25464 Sycamore Lane, was hopping with people getting a look at JR and Sarah’s decorations.

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Reagan Kurz stands next to her special ornaments tree in her bedroom during Sunday’s Under the Son Ministries Christmas Homes Tour. Still very into the Kansas City Chiefs and more specifically quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Kurz wore his jersey while leading a tour of her home.

On a tour led by their daughter Reagan Kurz, holiday tour takers were treated to a look at her room and special Christmas tree on which hangs special ornaments. Every ornament, one for each year of her life, is about activities or things in which she’s shown great interest. Last year’s ornament was a Patrick Mahomes jersey, a version of which she also wore during the tour.

Reagan continued the tour by showing off the upstairs den and even her sisters’ Carsyn and Payton’s room and their ornamental trees.

In the living room, tourists looked for items on the tour’s annual scavenger hunt in a nearly 10-foot tall Christmas tree full of white flowers and “snow-flecked” pinecones and branches. Sarah told The Forum she tried to find and use winter décor more than Christmas-related items, because it can stay out for a longer time during the winter season.

“Otherwise January and February gets pretty bleak,” she said.

While on the tour, masks were required and booties were given to each attendee to help with the pandemic, but also keep homes on the tour as clean as possible.

Proceeds from the tour will be used for educational expenses of children at Gethsemane Home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a cause near and dear to the Sherrys’ hearts.

Steve and Donella have traveled to Thailand off and on for nearly 10 years now with the ministry and work with local Christians there to spread the word and help students.

For more information visit the nonprofit’s Facebook page.

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