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Missoula family's longtime Christmas tradition comes to an end - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Missoula family's longtime Christmas tradition comes to an end

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A street that is normally filled with people is quiet after a family has decided not to put out their annual Christmas display. (MTN News photo) A street that is normally filled with people is quiet after a family has decided not to put out their annual Christmas display. (MTN News photo)

MISSOULA - Ricki and Dave Koch were the brilliant minds behind the intricate Christmas display that for many became a family tradition in Missoula.

But this year the street that is normally filled with people is quiet after the family has decided not to put out the display after beloved mother, wife and friend Ricki Koch passed away in August.

Ricki and Dave met through mutual friends and after a while, Dave knew that she was the one for him and he proposed, "you’d have to know her like I did. She was a pretty spicy little person and I just loved it." 

The display -- which became a 28 year tradition -- was Ricki’s idea. Years ago, Ricki and her kids to visit a holiday display hosted by another family in Missoula but the display closed when that family lost someone close to them.  

That's when Ricki began wishing for a display of her own.  She shared her dream with Dave and two years after they were married he made that dream into a reality. 

Dave built most of the display. One of his first creations was a replica of their home including pictures of each of their family members. From the house to the stockings, and the Ferris Wheel, each piece of the display meant something special to their family.

As their family grew so did the display, "the more we put up the more I built the more ideas we came up with and we just grew from there," Dave said.

The two would stay up all night so they could be there when people came by to see the display and after a while kids started asking Ricki if she was Mrs. Claus. For the entire time that the Christmas lights were up, she would stand on the driveway and hand out candy canes to little kids.”

The family said the decision not to put up the lights this year was an extremely hard one to make. They didn't want their tradition to end But without Ricki, it wouldn't be the same. 

“When you lose the person that's the reason why you did it you kind of lose your way," Tara Schmelebeck said. They didn't want to disappoint the community that had been so supportive of them throughout the years.

“Our family would just like to thank you for being a part of our family the last 28 years and we would like to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year," Schmelebeck said.

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