New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 24, 2005, New Braunfels, Texas
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 24,2005
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SPORTS GAME TIME
The Dallas Cowboys hope to keep playoff hopes alive during Christmas Eve clash with Carolina. Page 10A
FORUM SPEAK OUT
Readers voice their opinions on the meaning of Christmas, holiday traditions and bell ringers. Page 4A
Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852.
Vol. 154, No. 338 20 pages, 2 sections
Details .... 1B
DEAR ABBY 3B
CLASSIFIEDS 5B COMICS 2B
CROSSWORD 2B FORUM 4A
OBITUARIES 3A SPORTS 10A
TV GRIDS 3BFirefighter: ‘There are no hard feelings’
By Leigh Jones
Christmas always has been special for Stacie and Don Zercher, but this year the season of rejoicing holds more meaning than usual.
The couple has a lot to be thankful for now that they know Stacie will be returning to work at the New Braunfels Fire
Department with a clean slate and a cleared reputation.
“Today, I have a lot of catching up to do,” Stacie said Friday. “I just want some quiet time to appreciate what this season is all about.”
Holiday preparation has been difficult during the last month as the 18-year New Braunfels Fire Department veteran bat
tled against being implicated as a drug user and a liar.
“This has probably been one of the most, if not the most, difficult things I’ve ever been through,” she said. “To be persecuted publicly, with my family, kids and grandads all seeing me accused of something I didn’t do, was really hard."
Stacie lost her job Nov. 22 after
failing a drug test the week before following a minor traffic accident in a city vehicle. She maintained her innocence from the beginning, fighting to get her job back and clear her name.
She finally was allowed to return to work after a grievance panel gave her the option of taking a polygraph test to prove she
had never used drugs.
Although a lot of discussion regarding her termination centered around the Hemp-based tanning lotion Stacie used in the months leading up to the drug test, the vindicated city employee said Friday she really had no idea what caused her urine
See ZERCHER, Page 3A Stacie Zercher
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LIGHTS IN THE DARKNESS
Christmas decorations bring good cheer to all
Water filters more than most residents can handle
By David Rupkalvis
BULVERDE — Residents in Bulverde Hills subdivision are armed with filters that can remove trihalomethane from their water. But to most of them, it is worthless.
Mayor Sarah Stevick lives in Bulverde Hills and she said that she, and many of her neighbors, may never install the filters. While they still fear having trihalomethane in their water, most of the residents simply can’t figure out how to install the systems.
“Even my husband, and he's mechanically inclined, said it’s more hassle than it’s worth,” Stevick said. “At least he knows how to do it. I wouldn’t have any idea how to do it.”
Stevick said the concerns are shared by many of the residents. She recalled one
See FILTERS, Page 5A
Lighting up NB
Elliott Electric gives consumers a new place to find their electrical supplies.
Foundation gives surprise grant to senior center
By Jessica Sanders
This month was Bessie Mae Kronkosky s birthday, but the Comal County Senior Citizens' Center got the surprise gift.
The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, founded by the late Albert and Bessie Kronkosky, awards a grant to a South Texas organization on the birthday of each of its founders. This year, the senior center was one of the lucky recipients, receiving $50,000.
Robert Lopez Jr., executive director of the senior center, said the grant is a welcome and unsolicited surprise.
“We have lots of plans for renovations and continuing support of programs that help seniors, such as Meals on Wheels,” he said.
The Kronkosky Foundation, with an endowment of $295 million, recently reached $100 million in charitable donations to South Texas organizations. Everything from symphonies to animal shelters have benefited from the foundation's giving.
See GRANT, Page 5A
By Jessica Sanders
Up on the housetop reindeer pause, out jumps good old ... SpongeBob Squarepants?
At the Miller residence, in the 1200 block of Fredericksburg Road in New Braunfels, the animated sponge has replaced Santa Claus as the star of a sparkling Christmas display.
“We’ve got kids who really like SpongeBob, and we kinda like him, too,” admitted Susan Miller. “We had a choice between SpongeBob and Santa, and everyone said, SpongeBob!’”
The Millers are just one of many local families who have strung together bright displays of Christmas cheer around their homes tliis year.
Just because a cartoon character tops off their Christmas light display doesn’t mean the Millers take the holiday lightly. Shawn and Susan Miller start decorating their yard on Thanksgiving weekend. They use 4,000 lights decorating the front yard’s tree alone.
“Each year we add one or two new things to the display,” Susan Miller said. “And don’t forget about the gingerbread men — I made them myself.”
Mike Brietzke also added a homemade element to the Christmas display at his home in the 200 block of Kentucky Boulevard in New Braunfels. He created the PVC star that sits atop his roof.
“When we remodeled our house, I had the builder include a special pipe on the roof so I could hide the cord,” Brietzke said.
Mike and Vicky Brietzke’s red and white lights brighten the neighborhood with 575 big lights along the driveway and root and more than 5,000 mini lights on the trees. He said he sets up the display by himself with as much help from his kids as he can get.
“The kids have to help me with the trees,” he said, “lf only one person does it, you get so dizzy going around the tree, you can’t do more than one at a time.”
Though the kids aren’t crazy about helping with the setup, Mike Brietzke said, they always appreciate the results.
Photos by DAVID INGRAM/Herald-Zeitung
The home of Gary and Donna Alvarez stands out in the 200 block of Kentucky Street with its rainbow of colored lights, lollipops and Christmas trees in the front yard. Middle, the home of Shawn and Susan Milleron Fredericksburg Road lights up the neighborhood. Bottom, the Comal County Courthouse stands out with a glow of white lights.
“They always tell me I do too much, but when it’s up they like it,” he said. “I like Christmas lights a lot; it’s like a birthday cake for
Some confections found in the Brietzkes’ display, specifically candy canes, once could be found in a neighbor’s yard. Donna Alvarez, who also lives in the 200 block of Kentucky Boulevard, said she also used to decorate with candy canes and red-and-white lights.
“I had to change because my neighbors stole the candy canes!” she said with a goodnatured laugh. “But it was time to change.
Now that I have my soh, I wanted to have colored lights.”
Donna and Gary Alvarez’s Christmas decorating tradition started long before their marriage.
Donna Alvarez said her father is dedicated to decorating her family's lawn, even after the children moved away.
She said that she even decorated with lights when she lived alone. Now, the Alvarez home is decorated with thousands of colored lights, Christmas trees and light-up lollipops.
“Now my 21-month old is very particular about the lights. He says,
Lights on! Lights on!”’ she said. “I wouldn’t have Christmas without lights.”