Melissa Warnick stands next to a hand painted and signed Christmas card that’s part of a Christmas memorial to her late father, Ronald McDonald. The lighted display is located at 1121 Crestline Place. | Clif Knight

Archived Story

Lights of love

Published 9:58pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas decorations at Warnick home celebrate life of Ronald Ray McDonald

Members of the late Ronald Ray McDonald family are going the extra mile this holiday season to show their abiding love for their husband, father, grandfather and grandson.

McDonald died on Sept. 27, 2012, at the age of 60 after fighting pancreatic and liver cancer for 11 months.

As a memorial to him, an outdoor Christmas display lights up the sky at 1121 Crestline Place in Hartselle, the home of his daughter, Melissa Warnick. She and one of her two sons, Steven, worked on the display for about three weeks before its 8,500 lights were turned on the day after Thanksgiving.

A focal point of the display is a 4×8 ft. hand-painted Christmas card, signed by members of the McDonald family.

“The idea of building a Christmas memorial to dad came to my mother and me after we learned that the headstone for his burial site wouldn’t be delivered and installed until January of next year,” Warnick stated. “I think he would approve of what we’ve done because he used to enjoy driving around town and viewing lighted Christmas decorations.”

“My dad loved the Christmas holidays. He and mom were married on Christmas Day,” Warnick noted in a five-page letter she wrote about his life. “To him, it was not so much the exchanging of gifts as it was a time of worshiping his Lord and Savior and getting the family together for a fun time.

“In the three years before his death, he invited coworkers who had no family to come spend Christmas in his home,” she pointed out.

A born again Christian, McDonald was also tuned in to spreading the gospel and helping others in their time of need.

“He was a man who would stop and pick up someone stranded, give them a ride, or put them up for the night,” Warnick noted in her letter. “ And a goal of his, even after his cancer reached an advanced stage, was to go from church to church, share his testimony and teach the Bible.”

Warnick said here dad realized his time was getting short a few weeks before his death and begged her to go shopping with him for an anniversary gift for his wife and Christmas gifts for family members.

“I took him shopping and that made him happy,” she said. “The gifts he picked out are now wrapped and sitting under the Christmas tree. “They’ll be opened on Christmas Day when the family gets together. It will be an emotional time for all of us as we reflect on so many wonderful memories of him and the bond of love we share.”

“We know he’s in Heaven, surrounded by angels, and looking over us as our guardian angel. As we feel his light shining down on us, we trust that the light in our Christmas memorial is shining up on him.”

Warnick said people are welcome to come by and view the lights and decorations at their convenience until Dec. 31. The display is lit from dark until 10:30 p.m.

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