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Pelham Woman Honors Son With Holiday Display

PELHAM, N.Y. – Joan Altobelli lost her son Richard Altobelli Jr. after his five month battle with cancer last May but his memory lives on in her traditional Christmas decorations.

Altobelli and her daughter, Lois Soccodato, decorate their store , Village Wine and Liquor, each year with their family’s collection of nearly 200 nutcrackers. Altobelli Jr. loved the toys as a child and used to work at the store.

Altobelli said she and husband, Richie Bell, would buy him one or two nutcrackers each year for Christmas until he was 56 years old. Her family has decorated the store that way for at least 20 years, but Altobelli did not know if she could continue it after her son passed away last year.

“I didn’t know if I could handle a Christmas tree,” Altobelli said.

Her family helped her through the tough time and the decorations are in the windows of the store again this year. Her grandson, Anthony, helped Altobelli and her daughter set them up when he came home from college for the Thanksgiving break.

The 6’4” track runner made the all-day process easier by reaching the high shelves in the store.

“I think running track stretched him out,” Altobelli said.

Altobelli said the decorations are popular and that the display usually draws a crowd of people - both young and old.

“We have children who come and stand here every day,” Altobelli said. “Their parents are freezing outside while they check out every one.”

Altobelli visits her 31-year-old and 28-year-old grandsons, who are now without both a mother and father, and cooks for them every day. And while the decorations are a tribute to her late son, she remembers him every time she sees his children.

“I still have their two sons,” Altobelli said. “I will have them, God willing, forever.”

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