Russ and Cheryl Ahner are feeling the pangs of their first Christmas as adult orphans. Although their mother passed away in November 2010, the shock of her loss still hadn’t settled into grief and they went through the holidays in a daze.
This year when they unpacked the ceramic Christmas village they watched their mother lovingly paint when they were children along with the yard decorations, they realized the ornaments were their last tenuous connection to their parents, who are now both gone.
“Our dad passed away in 2005,” Russ explained from his front lawn, a fairyland of twinkling lights and lighted figurines. “Last year was the first Christmas without mom, but somehow this year was harder.”
So when someone swiped the head off their reindeer sometime after midnight on Dec. 24, the 60-something siblings felt like they had been kicked in the stomach.
“My brother is devastated. He keeps those reindeer in perfect condition,” Cheryl said. “Both houses on either side of us are empty so it’s not like a lot of things are going on.”
Cheryl said that the person who took the head had to stand in the yard for a while taking the reindeer apart. found the cable ties that fastened the head to the body lying on the ground.
“That head was heavy,” she said. “To go to that much trouble, it would have been easier to just grab the whole thing and run.”
Nothing else in the yard was touched. The thief just wanted the head.
“It was a stag’s head with antlers,” Russ said. “I picture it hanging over someone’s bar or on a fence.”
Like many long-time Oak Lawn residents the Ahners’ live in the house where they grew up. Although life took them on different paths—Cheryl raised a family and Russ lived in Germany for three years—those paths circled back to the home their parents bought in 1956.
“My mother loved Christmas,” Cheryl said. “There are lots of memories.”
Some of the yard decorations like the Christmas train and gingerbread house were gifts, others Russ purchased with his parents. The reindeer set cost $450 new.
“My mother was my best friend,” he said. “I bought her the peace sign with the penguin last year. She never got to see it hanging over the garage.”
The Ahners would like the reindeer head back—no questions asked. They won’t press charges even though the theft was reported to village police.
“It means a lot to us,” Cheryl said. “We’re not getting any younger. Just leave it in anywhere in the yard but not behind the car because we might run it over.”
The Ahners live at 9125 S. Mayfield Ave. Their house is easy to find. It’s the one with the headless reindeer on the front lawn.