Saturday, December 16, 2000

A Christmas not as bright


Alzheimer's dims Adams County display

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BLUE CREEK, Ohio — The hollow is dark and silent. Only the wind drives down Cassel Run Road.

        Big silver angels no longer loom over the hills, and headlights shine into Carl Rudd's front window just a few times each night.

        This is the year that Alzheimer's disease stole Christmas in Adams County. For the first time since 1969, Blue Creek's best-known residents, Mr. Rudd and his wife, Judy, won't greet tens of thousands of friends.

[photo] Judy and Carl Rudd became the best-known residents of Blue Creek, Adams County, thanks to their massive annual Christmas display.
(Tony Jones photo)
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        Rudd's Christmas Farm is now just the Rudd farm. But hope still flickers.

        Mr. Rudd, who has suffered from the progressive disease for about two years, can no longer tend to the thousands of Christmas-display items and the million lights that he once installed across the hillsides.

        Last Christmas, about 200,000 people came to see the lighted hills and Mr. Rudd's many figures, large and small. They were sold at an auction in April, when the family's spirits hit a low point.

        “We're not used to the silence,” Mrs. Rudd said. “It's been hard. I try not to think about it. I guess we've handled it fairly well, but our (10) kids haven't.”

        Their daughter Cindy Lawrence of Winchester said Christmastime seems strange without her parents' display.

        “We enjoyed what we were doing. People got a different feeling down there — like they were a part of the family,” she said.

        “It's pretty rough, not having our display,” Mr. Rudd said. “All these years, here and before in Dayton, we've had a display and made millions of people happy. But who knows what will happen next year? I'm past 70, but if I keep improving, I might put something back up. It depends on my health.”

        “Carl, 36 years is enough,” Mrs. Rudd said gently.

[photo] By 1998, an estimated 200,000 people per year traveled down Cassel Run Road in Blue Creek to see the Rudds' Christmas display.
(Enquirer file photo)
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        “Just maybe I'll do it, if I'm able,” he said. “I'm doing really good these days. For a while there, I got so bad that I could hardly remember my name. But I'm getting help in Morehead, Ky.”

        Mr. Rudd is taking chelation therapy, an alternative-medicine treatment that helps cleanse the blood of certain metallic impurities, “and it has done wonders for him,” his wife said. “So many Alzheimer's patients don't know about it. In fact, I tell the kids that if daddy keeps doing fairly well, we might put up some Christmas stuff again next year. That way, if people want to come by here, they can. But it won't be anything like it was.”

        It was massive: one man's tribute to Christmas, the religious one, spread over several acres. By 1982, about 100,000 people stopped to see the display, and by the late 1990s the number had increased to an estimated 200,000 a year. Major news organizations told Mr. Rudd's story. He never charged admission, but did accept donations in later years when his electricity bills grew large.

        “It was my whole life,” he said. “I've been putting up the lights for so long, I can't get used to sitting around at Christmas. I'm tenderhearted when I think of the things we used to do here.

        “I want the Lord to help me remember better so that I won't forget the faces of all the wonderful friends I've known.

        “I keep hopin', too. Maybe next year we can do it again.”
       



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