“Some churches say, ‘We can’t afford it right now.’ We have to explain there’s no charge, it’s a gift.”
If a 7-foot cedar cross mysteriously appeared in front of your church, it may have come from DeFuniak Springs resident Frank A. Neibert.
The 94-year-old Neibert has been making the crosses since 2016 and estimates he has made a total of 300 crosses, with 80-90 large crosses being donated to local churches.
“We have them (in churches) all the way from Pace to Marianna,” said Neibert, who notes that he and his family have also sent crosses to churches in Alabama, Pennsylvania, New York and South Carolina.
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It takes Neibert about three days to build one of the crosses, a process which includes cutting the lumber, mitering the edges, gluing the pieces together, mounting the cross on a base and finishing it with varnish to bring out the rich color pattern of the wood.
He gets the eastern red cedar and juniper planks from his son-in-law, LD Henderson, who has a contract with the state of Florida to remove log jams from rivers in northwestern part of the state.
So, in a sense, the dead trees clogging up area rivers are resurrected as crosses.
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Neibert doesn’t charge for the crosses, nor does he take requests.
His daughter, Liz Henderson, explained the process of how they select a church to receive a cross.
“It’s just a feeling we get for particular church,” said Henderson. “It might be a big church, a little church or a medium-size church.”
Henderson says that they will usually drop the cross off at the church unannounced, but that she will attach a small note letting the recipient know where it came from.
“Some churches say, ‘We can’t afford it right now,’” said Neibert. “We have to explain there’s no charge, it’s a gift.”