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Christmas village brings joy to patients
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Every year, Nena Walsh sets up a mountainous Christmas village display in the waiting room of her husband’s cardiology practice at 1345 West Bay Drive, Suite 101, Largo. The couple receives hundreds of notes expressing appreciation for the display.
LARGO – The hundreds of tiny Victorian-era figurines almost seem alive.

The children skate and sled in their mountain village, bundled against the cold. Couples dance in a warm, upstairs ballroom. Above snow-dusted roofs, Santa Claus and his reindeer spin through the icy air.

The minature scenes, housed along a back wall of cardiologist Dr. Ronald Walsh’s waiting room, each depict a slice of the oldtime Christmas spirit. Nena Walsh collects and sets up the village houses, pine trees, horse-drawn carriages, scenery and residents – even crafting the snow-covered mountains they’re nestled between.

The impressive setup inspires many of the patients who come to the Largo practice, as evidenced by the hundreds of comment cards they leave behind.

“I’ve received so many beautiful comments from my husband’s patients,” Nena said. “They’ve been so complimentary.”

The display rouses nostalgia in many of the older patients, Nena said.

“(They say) it brought them back to their childhood, that they remember villages like that,” Nena said.

One woman wrote that she was so lonely that she couldn’t wait to die. But then she came to her cardiology appointment and saw the Christmas village.

“It reminded me of when I was a little girl and all the wonderful things in life,” she wrote Nena. “I know that you’ll be putting it up next year and the year after, and it just brought so much joy to me.”

It takes a full weekend to set up the display, Nena said. She starts at 6 p.m. on a Friday, after patients and staff leave.

“And by Sunday, I better have it done for Monday,” she said with a laugh.

Her collection started with lighted buildings and figurines from Department 56’s Dickens’ Village Series, but has been mixed with similar, less expensive collections. She estimates she has about 64 buildings now, though she displays only about 24.

The inspiration for the collection was prompted during a walk through downtown Chicago, Ill., in December 1990. Nena used to work in the historic Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building and was walking by Marshall Field’s department store when she first saw the Dickens’ figurines.

“They had a very small display. And I remembered it very well when we moved to Florida,” Nena said. “(I thought) ‘Oh my gosh, I would love to recreate that.’”

The first village was a small tabletop arrangement in the Walsh dining room. Every year, she added more pieces until it outgrew the room. It became a four-tiered, year-round display that encompassed the entire 2.5-car garage through three Christmases, and included fountains and penguins on little glass blocks at the entrance.

“We had a lot of people coming through and looking at the display. It was huge,” Nena remembered.

She eventually conceded that the family needed use of the garage, and ended up giving her children many of the Christmas pieces. But when her husband’s practice moved to an office with a large waiting room about seven years ago, she was inspired to rebuild her collection.

“Many patients and their families, even from other physicians in our building, anticipate and come in every year to see this,” Ronald Walsh said of the display.

Last year, Nena wasn’t able to build the village due to family obligations. Patients were disappointed, her husband said.

But the Christmas village returned to true form this year.

“That’s why I do it: it’s for my husband’s patients. They bring me a lot of joy,” Nena said.

Dr. Ronald Walsh’s practice, part of the Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida-North, is in suite 101 of 1345 W. Bay Drive. Call 492-5354.
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