RICHMOND, Va. -- They’re sure signs of the season. Like leaves falling in autumn or bluebells blooming in spring, when the Choir Boys go up on Grove Avenue in Richmond’s Museum District it must mean one thing.
At the Beirne family home in the Museum District, the choir boy tradition stretches back to the early 1960s.
"Simple in design. Simple but in effect? Magnificent," Ida O’Leary said. "That is when we knew it was Christmas. It was like a Christmas tree. A lot of people would stop us and say 'where are they and when are they going up?'"
Siblings Ida O’Leary, Christy Heinen, and Ruppert Beirne -- along with their four other brothers and sisters -- can’t remember a Christmas without the silent sentinels frozen in mid-song.
“My mom was all about Christmas,” Ruppert said. “She’d be down here yelling. Turn him to the right.”
Carol Beirne created her pride and joy with help from her father.
No tacky lights and over the top displays here.
The homemade choir boys harken back to a simpler time.
The Choir Boys legend grew with each passing Christmas.
“People would say, ‘Oh,you live in the house with the choir boys. I look for those every year,’” Ida recalled.
But when their parents Carol and Jack passed away, the Beirne children decided to sell the family home last year.
The choir boy’s 50-plus year run on Grove Avenue would end.
“It was like losing a member of the family,” Ida said.
But old traditions die hard. Especially this one.
“It really gets to the core of what the season is all about,” Christy Heinen said.
After learning about the neighborhood landmark, new owners Emily and Stephen Kennedy decided to carry the torch.
“I didn’t know so many people cared about the choir boys,” Emily Kennedy said.
The young couple is adding a twist and another layer to this neighborhood tale. The Kennedy’s even hired professional millworkers to cut new choir boys.
“No second thought at all. It's so cool,” Emily said.
Replacing the originals and a later version.
Mill owner Michael Seiwers said what the Kennedys are doing is a true gift.
"It was something that you remember from your childhood,” Michael said. "It's great to hear and grateful that they want to carry it on."
Emily and Stephen’s creations are a mirror image of the originals.
“I love that they have taken on this tradition and made it their own. And carry on a tradition that is special to us and now special to them,” Ruppert said.
The Kennedy’s cutouts will take their place this and every December to follow -- for all to see.
The Beirnes are still pinching themselves.
“It is just neat opportunity to carry on something that was here before us,” Stephen said.
The siblings say to embrace their family’s nearly six-decade-old tradition while honoring their mother, is a reflection of what Christmas really means and looks like on Grove Avenue.
“It was like bringing Christmas that was missing in our hearts,” Ida said. “Now it's back, it's wonderful to see it.”
If you would like to see the classic choir boys, they will be up at the Kennedy’s home through New Year's day at 3525 Grove Avenue.
If you know of someone with an interesting story to tell email Greg McQuade.