One of the prettiest sets of Christmas lights in Neosho are the candles in the Newton County Courthouse. Each Christmas, the candles appear in most of the windows and make the Neosho Square picture card perfect.
The "candles in the window" program began in the mid-to-late 1980s — probably 1986. According to Dennis Embrey of Stella, who was the courthouse janitor then, the city fathers were trying to revitalize the square and came to the county commission to ask them to do something for the courthouse. The commissioners, however, thought the county couldn't afford to do anything.
That's when Ruth Adele Bushmeyer, one of Neosho's biggest town boosters, decided to help spread some holiday cheer.
For several years, a large star had shone from the roof of the courthouse. But, in time, it disappeared, very probably broken or worn out.
During World War II, the courthouse flashed a big letter "V" on the roof. The "V" was often used by Winston Churchill, prime minister of England, as a sign of Victory during the hard and desperate times in war-torn England.
So, Bushmeyer came up with the idea of candles in each window of the courthouse at Christmas time. She purchased enough for all the windows that could show them. No county funds were given nor were any other individual contributions believed to have been made. But Bushmeyer’s act of generosity has been appreciated by hundreds of people ever since.
Each year, for the last 25 years or so, the “Bushmeyer candles” have shone each Christmas.
Embrey said when he was janitor, he put them up the day after Thanksgiving. At that time, the night cleaning crew carried extra lights with them on their rounds and replaced any burned out bulbs. Then, on New Year’s Day, when the courthouse was closed. Embrey came to work, took the candles down and stored them in a closet in the basement of the courthouse.
This tradition has continued since that time. The candles still make a uniform and simple statement as they bring beauty and a sense of peace to all who come to the square. With the loss of so much retail business around the courthouse, the candles have provided, not only beauty, but a sense of permanency in downtown Neosho.
Betty Wright, who worked in the courthouse when the candles were introduced, said, “I like them. They have always looked so pretty.”
Bushmeyer was one of the early recipients of the “Book of Golden Deeds,” awarded each year since 1984 by the Neosho Exchange Club. She was honored with that award in 1986. Three years later, she was named Neosho’s “Citizen of the Year.”
Although Bushmeyer did many good things, the candles in the courthouse window serve as a reminder of what a bright warm light she cast over her community.
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