House sports sentimentality, history

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Brenda Fritsche’s Christmas tree features several family ornaments dating back to the 1930s.

Participants in ACARF’s Holiday Homes Tour Sunday will see a picture-perfect confluence of history, the holidays and bit of sentimentality for our four-legged friends when they visit the Iola home of Bill and Brenda Fritsche.
The Fritsches, at 309 S. Cottonwood St., own one of six homes that will be open to visitors from 1 to 5 p.m. Proceeds from the $10 ticket sales benefit the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility, which is nearly ready to open its new shelter in LaHarpe. Tickets are available at Duane’s Flowers, Creative Clips, Iola Pharmacy, Classy Attic and Jump Start, as well as at each of the homes the day of the tours.
It was because of ACARF’s mission — to provide a safe and care-giving environment where animals can reside and eventually become adopted — that the Fritsches were eager take part, Brenda Fritsche said.
Fritsche has a special Christmas tree set up in the foyer of her Queen Anne style Victorian home to greet visitors on Sunday’s tour. The ornaments contain pictures of the Fritsches’ pets through the years — all of which came from an animal shelter.
She spoke about the animals — and the spots they’ve engraved into her heart — while giving a brief tour of her home.
“There’s Candy,” she said, pointing to a picture of a golden brown and white dog the family rescued years ago. The dog was so calm and docile around the family’s five daughters, that Becky, the youngest, would use her as a pillow while lounging in the front yard.
Other ornaments feature dogs and cats of all shapes and sizes..
There were cats Stormin’ Norman and Max, and dog Peggy, who gave birth to Candy. And then there was Slick.
“We had Slick Kitty for close to 16 years,” she said, pointing to the picture of a frisky long-haired black cat.
Slick was named as such because he had been covered with fleas and an oily substance when he was found.
“He wasn’t even old enough to be weaned when we got him, so I fed him from a baby bottle,” Fritsche recalled.
Slick quickly grew to become a fixture in the Fritsche household — a true member of the family.
He also was Bill and Brenda’s last pet. Fritsche said she chose not to adopt another after his death about five years ago.
“It’s hard to lose a pet, especially ones like that,” she said.
The Fritsches occasionally are asked if they’d provide a home to another animal.
“Right now, I’m content just to pet the ones who walk by,” she said with a laugh.
Still, even now that her children have grown and have families of their own, the family’s fondness for shelter animals remains. Fritsche noted that Brenda has recently adopted a shelter cat that had no ears.
“He’s funny looking, but he’s the most lovable animal you’ll meet,” Fritsche said. “All these animals want is a little love, and they’ll give it back to you tenfold.”

THE REST of the Fritsche house is elegantly decorated with a number of family keepsakes.
The Christmas tree sports ornaments that date more than 70 years, nearly all from Bill and Brenda’s parents and grandparents.
“We rarely buy ornaments, maybe if we’re vacationing on a trip somewhere,” she said. “The others have just been in the family. It’s just our tree — our stuff.”
She showed some ornaments from the World War II era that feature paper hooks, because metal was saved for the war effort.
A mantle displays stockings for each of the Fritsche daughters, sewn when they were born by Bill’s mother, Marie. Each appears as neat and tidy as if they had been sewn this week.
In the living room sits a model log cabin — part of Bill’s Lincoln Log collection he had as a child. Brenda rebuilds the cabin each year, then carefully positions a small Santa being pulled by a team of reindeer nearby. A small ribbon is used as the harness for the reindeer and is arranged exactly as it would be if they were real animals.
In the kitchen sits a simple display of knickknacks, with Christmas lights intertwined through a dozen or so milk bottles.
And then there’s the papier mache replica of the Fritsche house, sitting prominently in the foyer.
Fritsche has other papier mache decorations, but is hesitant to display them.
“When you open the front door, there may be a gust of wind, which would do a number on the decorations,” she chuckled. “But I asked Bill to make me one of the house. He did a tremendous job.”