Jeff Jardine: 'Baby Jesus' kidnapped from manger in northeast Modesto church's Nativity scene

jjardine@modbee.comDecember 23, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textJeff Jardine
    Title: Local columnist
    Coverage areas: People, issues, the community
    Bio: Jeff Jardine joined The Bee's staff in 1988 after a decade at the Stockton Record. He covered sports before moving into news in 1996 and became the Local Columnist in 2003. He graduated from University of the Pacific in 1979, majoring in communications and history.
    Recent stories written by Jeff
    On Twitter: @jeffjardine57
    E-mail: jjardine@modbee.com

— The good, the bad and the stupid – not in any particular order – on Christmas Eve:

SERIOUS GRINCHING – Ryan Cortright is a forgiving soul. It sort of comes with the job description as pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in northeast Modesto. Wednesday, he found himself shaking his head in disbelief. When he arrived at the church, he noticed something missing from the Nativity scene in front of the church: Baby Jesus.

“Mary and Joseph are still there, looking for him, but he’s not there,” Cortright said.

The resin figure is part of a very nice set donated to the church by members, Cortright said. In previous years, they assembled the scene beneath the stars. This year, though, some church members built a small stable to keep them out of the elements, completing it Tuesday. A day later, Jesus vanished.

“Who knows?” Cortright wondered. “Maybe someone was upset that we put it out early, and will return it by Christmas. I want to be positive.”

The thief or thieves can’t destroy the spirit of the season, though.

“They gave me good material for my Christmas sermon,” he said. “They can steal our Baby Jesus, but they can’t steal the gift that God gave us at Christmas.”

In other Grinch news, someone recently stole three Western saddles from the Care-Ousel therapeutic riding program in Modesto, where children with special needs are able to to ride. The program is run by Kim Kent, who lives in Idaho and drives down weekly to Modesto to work with the riders here.

Also, sculptor Betty Saletta of Oakdale emailed to point out that someone recently pried away a plaque describing how the statue “The Paper Boy” came to be in downtown Modesto’s McClatchy Square. She cast the statue for the park, which opened in 1995 and belongs to the city. Brazen? The statue stands at the corner of 15th and I streets, across 15th from the McHenry Mansion and catty-corner across I from the Stanislaus County Library. Right out in the open.

BOOK ON EVERY BED – The North Modesto Kiwanis Club’s annual Christmas Baskets program again was a success. Saturday, the club delivered baskets including food and gifts along with roughly 530 new and slightly used books to 45 families. In all, the effort coordinated by George and Marie Bairey benefited 160 kids living in the Tuolumne, Bret Harte and Shackelford School areas.

“It was the most ever we have collected and given to kids in this effort,” George Bairey said.

Book donors included the Kiwanis, the Mid Valley Chevy Club and Enslen School.

PAYING IT FORWARD – Jackson Kroll is a 7-year-old boy who suffers from kidney disease but certainly not from a lack of benevolence. Last year, he collected more than 100 stuffed toys to give to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. He’s been an outpatient there since he was 4 years old, and his kidney disease is in remission. This year, he’s again collected toys but will give them to children at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, where his mother is now a nurse.

THAT OTHER QB FROM TURLOCK – When the 49ers beat the Seahawks at Candlestick Park a few weeks ago, Colin Kaepernick had to share the spotlight with another quarterback from Turlock. Medeiros Elementary School student Mya Sanchez won her third NFL Punt, Pass & Kick contest, claiming the title of 49ers’ champion in the 8-9 age group. This time, she beat the Nevada-Utah champion. She got a pep talk from Kaepernick the night before the game, and he texted her a few hours before the game began. Phil Sanchez, her father, taught Kaepernick at Pitman High, and Mya has known him most of her young life.

HISTORY BUFF? – Columbia State Historic Park needs docents to work with tourists by giving tours and lectures, teach park etiquette, costumes, etc. It’s a volunteer program in which the docents teach history through re-enactments, special events and exhibits. After completing the training, park officials want the docents to commit to volunteering eight hours per month or 96 hours annually.

Applications will be accepted through Jan. 15. Call (209) 588-9128 or stop in at the museum in Columbia to pick up an application. The training sessions will run five straight Saturdays beginning Jan. 25.

AS THE OLD SAYING GOES – Modesto police reported last week that a burglary suspect caught in the act dropped a 2-by-4 as he tried to flee when the victim arrived. Cornered, the perp grabbed two screwdrivers and tried unsuccessfully to stab the victim. (No word on whether the screwdrivers were Phillips or regular head.) The victim used the stud to subdue the burglar and pin him down until the police arrived.

Obviously, the perp forgot the old saying: “Never take a screwdriver to a 2-by-4 fight.” Or something like that.

Merry Christmas!

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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