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June 27, 2014
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Roseburg man who put Christmas display in motion dies

A Roseburg man whose Christmas decorations graced the Hucrest neighborhood for more than 20 years died Monday at his home.

Jim Zurcher’s moving mechanical creations created traffic jams and drew visitors by the bus load to his house at 1825 N.W. Oerding Ave.

Zurcher was 85. Friends and family describe him as a deeply religious man with a talent for mechanics and a great sense of humor.

Neighbor Lachlan MacKinnon moved to Zurcher’s block in 2007 and remembers people driving by to see his neighbor’s display.

“There was a steady stream of traffic down the street,” he said.

Zurcher began creating Christmas decorations to please his wife of 62 years, Pat Zurcher, and first put them up in his yard in 1987.

“He used to love it,” his sister, Sandy Buchanan, said Wednesday. “It was kind of a fun thing. His wife loved Christmas. She enjoyed it so much, so of course he did. She was always his bride.”

Pat Zurcher died in 2008. Their son, Marc Zurcher, also remembered his mother’s love of the holiday.

“She was always big on Christmas. She always decorated the inside of the house. It was nothing to have two or three Christmas trees in the house,” he said.

Marc Zurcher, 60, of Sierra Vista, Arizona, said his father’s health was bad and his knees were in bad shape, so he had scaled back in recent years. He put out a limited display last Christmas after taking a hiatus from 2010 to 2012.

MacKinnon said his neighbor’s mostly animated creations included a Santa upside down in the chimney with legs moving and elves working on presents. The largest was a Big Bird whose legs were made of pipes from a cooling system. Other creations included a snowman who tipped his hat, an Energizer bunny and a Jack-in-the-box.

“It was cool, very inventive,” MacKinnon said. “He was very good.”

Jim Zurcher designed his own pneumatic system, using air hoses to move his figures.

Marc Zurcher said his father was a “tinkerer.”

“He wanted to make decorations you couldn’t go to Fred Meyer or Walmart or something and buy,” Marc Zurcher said. “He didn’t have access to cutting-edge technology, so he went back to old-school technology.”

Jim Zurcher worked for lumber companies until he was 50, when he started his own business selling saw blades and other woodworking materials. Buchanan, 76, of Hayward, California, said her brother was at one time one of the five top lathe experts in the Western states.

Marc Zurcher said his father held a patent for sawmill equipment he designed.

Jim Zurcher enlisted in the Army when he was 17. Buchanan said her brother was a paratrooper, but to the best of her knowledge he was never in battle.

MacKinnon remembers his neighbor as a man who shared his religious beliefs through his Christmas displays.

“They all or a good portion of them had a message relating to his faith,” he said.

• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Jul 17, 2014 04:54PM Published Jun 28, 2014 09:10AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.