All I want for Christmas…

County luminaries share stories

By David J. Coehrs -

They now hold prominent positions in Fulton County but, like everyone, they were once children who dreamed of getting that one Christmas gift they coveted above all others.

A lighthearted survey by the Expositor brought forth reminiscences by some of the county’s luminaries of their yearnings from Yuletides past.

By age 13, Wauseon Mayor Kathy Huner had pestered her parents for a guitar for more than a year. “I really, really wanted that guitar,” she said.

Her hopes were dashed that Christmas, when her gifts seemed to come in small boxes, in stark contrast to the larger presents her four sisters received.

“Every gift I got that year came in a small box,” she recalled. “I was getting more upset and more upset. Like, why am I getting jilted this year when all I want is a guitar? It was going to be the worst Christmas ever.”

When one of the boxes did reveal a musical instrument, Huner was devastated. “They got me a toy crank-up guitar,” she said with a laugh. “I was not happy. I said, ‘This is not funny at all.’”

While her sisters encouraged her to play it, Huner turned around to discover her stepfather standing with a genuine Hondo acoustic guitar. She said she still plays it, in the preschool class she presently teaches.

All New Horizons Academy CEO Matt Rychener wanted for Christmas one year was one of a series of battery-operated toy trucks called Stompers.

“I kept telling my parents over and over again that I wanted a Stompers,” he said. “It was just a three- or four-dollar thing, but it was the latest thing.”

When the family opened gifts that year, Rychener’s father was delighted to get a Stompers truck. “Oh, he was so excited to get this truck,” Rychener said. “I said, ‘What? You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I was crushed Dad got the present and I didn’t.”

Everyone began laughing, “and I didn’t make the connection,” he said, before realizing the gift was actually his.

Wauseon Police Chief Keith Torbet experienced a similar trick with the combination railroad and racetrack he hounded his parents for at 10 years old.

“It was the latest, greatest thing out there. I wanted that in the worst way,” he said, chuckling.

Prior to Christmas, he was tasked with getting groceries from the trunk of the family car. While lifting them out Torbet spied something he wasn’t supposed to see – the track. It was too large to be hidden anywhere else before being wrapped. He mentioned the find to his mother and stepdad, and received a shocking reply.

“They said it was for my uncle to give to my cousin,” Torbet said. “They said, ‘You’ll have to ask Santa for it because we can’t afford it.’ I was crushed. I was devastated. I thought, ‘They get to play with it, and not me!”

On Christmas, Torbet became more discouraged when he saw only small gifts under the tree. He soon realized that, in an effort to fool him, his parents had taken the track apart and wrapped it in 10 different boxes.

The mother of Swanton Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle spent her career at the Jeep factory in Toledo. Five-year-old Rosanna wanted nothing more than a motorized toy Jeep for Christmas.

“That was probably one of the biggest presents I ever wanted. I was so excited,” she said.

But she faced a dilemma: How on earth would Santa Claus stuff such a large toy into the house? It was a conundrum that had her worried as Dec. 25 approached.

To her amazement, the miniature Jeep was there on Christmas morning. But Hoelzle remained stymied.

“My parents said, ‘Santa just works in magical ways,’” she said.

Evergreen Local Schools Superintendent James Wyse shared a more poignant remembrance.

“My most vivid memory of getting what I wanted for Christmas occurred when I was 12 years old,” he said. “For those of you who enjoy the movie, ‘A Christmas Story,’ you can picture my excitement when I opened up a package on Christmas Eve that contained a 12-gauge shotgun. I was so excited, and no, I didn’t shoot my eye out.”

The gift was especially memorable because it deepened Wyse’s appreciation for the outdoors. One of his favorite activities became rabbit hunting with his beagle Pearl after a snow had fallen. It became even moreso when his father was able to join him.

It didn’t matter to me whether or not we bagged a rabbit. The time spent with my dad was what mattered the most,” he said.

His father passed away in January of this year.

“I often think about my dad, and whenever I visualize opening up my Christmas Eve present, I realize the time spent hunting with my dad is what made that gift so special,” Wyse said.

County luminaries share stories

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.