Couple's nutcracker collection becomes unique holiday tradition at Country Skillet in Clearwater

The dozens of nutcrackers displayed on shelves at the Country Skillet Restaurant in Clearwater are the centerpiece to a never-ending love story. It's a collection that was assembled by a Clearwater couple. 

Easily more than 200 nutcrackers can be seen on every wall at the restaurant, but the number never mattered to Ray Walsh. What mattered to him was his wife Ro, short for Rowena. 

The couple met at the Country Skillet where Walsh was a customer. 

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Ro got one nutcracker, and it led to more and more of all shapes and sizes. 

"After she filled up the first big shelf, her and her husband, Ray [Walsh] would put up shelves and fill them with more and more nutcrackers," said Steve Trizis, the owner of the Country Skillet. "Buy them and put them up, and they would fill them up with nutcrackers. People would bring some in to add to the collection, and it became a game to find Rowena one she didn’t have." 

Together Walsh and Ro added nutcrackers every year until she passed away in 2014. 

"She meant everything to me," said Walsh. "She treated me like a king. I miss her terribly."

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But their special version of the nutcracker classic doesn’t end. Walsh is turning 87 this month. 

"Due to my age, I’m not getting up and down," sais Walsh. 

Now, Trizis and his staff handle putting up, taking down and storing the nutcrackers. They won’t let go of the tradition. 

"I start getting the questions in September, When are the nutcrackers going up?" said Trizis. 

Walsh said he loves walking in and seeing the nutcrackers at the Country Skillet every year and said Ro would have loved it too. 

It’s a love story that’s become Ray and Ro’s unique version of a nutcracker holiday tradition.