Alice Haas, a church volunteer who founded a living Nativity display that became a cherished Christmas tradition in a Rancho Cordova neighborhood, died Wednesday of stomach cancer, her family said. She was 68.
Mrs. Haas was a woman of deep faith and a driving force in community outreach efforts at Rancho Cordova United Methodist Church. She organized youth group activities and initiated a weekly free meal to feed the hungry. She sewed quilts to sell at church fundraisers and helped arrange trips to aid victims of natural disasters in Louisiana and Alabama.
In 1981, she created a Nativity scene on the church lawn with members portraying Jesus, Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds. She recruited the actors, sewed their costumes and wrangled a donkey from a nearby petting barn. For more than three decades, the living Christmas tableau has drawn people of good will to the Zinfandel Drive church.
"I always ask people, 'Do you remember the story?' " she told The Bee last December. "If they don't, then I tell them. The story is what's important."
The daughter of a United Methodist minister, Alice Avett was born March 28, 1944, in Gastonia, N.C.
She earned a nursing degree from Duke University and master's degree in public administration from Saint Mary's College. She spent most of her career with Kaiser Permanente in the Bay Area and Sacramento as a nurse in neonatal intensive care, infection control and recruiting.
She lived in Rancho Cordova and was married for 47 years to Tom Haas, a civil engineer. They had three daughters who followed their mother into helping professions as a social worker, a teacher and a nurse.
"She said many times during her life that we came from a long line of service," said her daughter Martha. "She said we have a responsibility to care not just in our professions, but also in our private lives and in the church."
Besides her husband, Mrs. Haas is survived by her daughters, Martha of Fair Oaks, Christie Abdulla of Rancho Cordova, and Stephanie Haas-Tan of Rancho Cordova; brothers, Wallace Avett of Murphy, N.C., and Jim Avett of Concord, N.C.; and six grandchildren.
A viewing is set for noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday followed by a funeral at 2 p.m. at Rancho Cordova United Methodist Church, 2101 Zinfandel Drive. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Rancho Cordova United Methodist Church Memorial Garden Fund.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.