By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN They’re not made of snow, but Alfred Jantschik’s wooden snowmen are just as cute as the real thing.
Plus, they’ll last a lot longer.
This Christmas season, Jantschik gave several of his small snowmen to Holy Trinity Elementary School, where fifth- and sixth-graders had the opportunity to paint and decorate them.
“It was fun working for you I enjoyed every minute of it,” Jantschik told Rosie Hertel’s art class when he came to visit Dec. 13.
Students made each snowman unique, with adornments like bright mittens, glittery snow, beaded buttons, and tiny scarves they crocheted with their fingers.
“Everyone did a fantastic job,” Jantschik said.
While many of the snowmen will be gifts for parents, students also decorated one for their teacher, and one for Jantschik.
This isn’t the first time Jantschik has shared his talents with local children.
“It started three years ago,” said Jantschik’s neighbor, Sue Neumann, who teaches second grade at Winsted Elementary School.
Jantschik made wooden trees for Neumann’s class in 2011, and snowmen in 2012.
As a thank-you, Neumann’s second-graders each drew Jantschik a picture of their snowman last year.
“I told the kids that’s the nicest Christmas present I ever got,” Jantschik recalled.
This season, Jantschik made more trees for Neumann’s class, in addition to the snowmen for Holy Trinity School.
“Each one takes about two hours to make,” Jantschik said, adding that he enjoys the process.
Jantschik started doing woodworking about 19 years ago, after retiring from a 38-year welding career at Millerbernd Manufacturing. Until last year, Jantschik also worked part time at a car wash in Hutchinson.
So far, he’s made 112 wooden benches, several birdhouses designed to look like cabooses, creative outdoor wooden signs, and much more.
“At [Holy Trinity’s] Spring Fling, I work with the school, giving benches to the kids,” Jantschik said. “They paint the benches and sign their names, and parents buy them.”
Jantschik, who has lived in Winsted 62 years, is originally from Germany.
He and his mother, along with his two younger siblings, came to America after his father died in World War II.
“My mother’s dad was here farming,” Jantschik said.
Jantschik, 16 at the time, became the breadwinner in the family. He never went to school for English, but he learned quickly.
Today, Jantschik enjoys keeping up with the German language, too, and subscribes to a magazine written entirely in German, called “Das Fenster” (meaning “The Window”).
Jantschik also corresponds with a pen pal in Germany. The exchange started several decades ago, after the recipient of a winter coat Jantschik donated wrote him a thank-you letter.
“We communicate all the time,” he said.