Friends and family members helped set up the decorative holiday train Wednesday. (Photo by Sara Humphrey)
WEST (December 4, 2013) In a town rattled to its core, Jimmy Matus’ holiday train is a sure sign that Christmas is still on its way.
Matus, 52, a longtime West businessman, who died in the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion while helping firefighters, loved Christmas, his son Dustin says.
So in 2005 Jimmy and Dustin purchased the 100-foot-long decorative Christmas train at an auction in Dallas and it’s been a holiday fixture in West ever since.
Without Jimmy to help put up the train and because Dustin has to travel a lot for his job, for a while it looked like the train wouldn’t be part of West’s Christmas this year.
But Dustin decided to donate the holiday train to West’s Merry Czechmas committee and Wednesday Jimmy’s friends and family went to work to set it up.
"It will help bring a lot of Christmas spirit alive to the community," Merry Czechmas co-director Jamie Allnutt said.
"There probably isn't one person in town that doesn't know this is Jimmy's train."
Allnut said now everyone who crosses the railroad tracks in West will see the decoration and think of Jimmy, who was named an honorary firefighter for his heroic efforts on April 17.
"It is going to bring back a lot of memories, both ones that will bring heartache and some that are going to make me drive by and smile," Dustin Matus said.
Dustin said spreading his dad's holiday spirit is important in helping both the town of West and his family heal.
"It really impresses me that people come together like this in this town to carry on a tradition dad had," Dustin said.
"I know dad and my stepmother Gail are looking down on us and smiling."
'Merry Czechmas' will be held in downtown West from Friday through Sunday.
Organizers said because of the cold most of the activities have been moved inside.
Funds raised at 'Merry Czechmas' go to the Kiwanis Club of West.