Nelson Star

Nelson couple’s birdhouses fitting memorial to tiny victims

Lee (right) and Carol (left) Rushton at work on the 26 birdhouses they are planning to ship to Newtown, Connecticut. The couple has been busy at their North Shore home and hope their creations help ease some of the pain of those who tragically lost family members in the mass shooting. - Kirsten Hildebrand photo
Lee (right) and Carol (left) Rushton at work on the 26 birdhouses they are planning to ship to Newtown, Connecticut. The couple has been busy at their North Shore home and hope their creations help ease some of the pain of those who tragically lost family members in the mass shooting.
— image credit: Kirsten Hildebrand photo

When the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school took the lives of 26 people late last year, one local couple couldn’t help but think of their three grandchildren.

Like many, Lee and Carol Rushton held the little ones in their lives close and counted themselves lucky as they watched the news unfold on December 14.

“It was shocking, absolutely shocking. I have a six-year-old grandchild living next door, and I just couldn’t imagine,” says Carol.

But their response didn’t end there.

The couple, who lives on the North Shore, made a birdhouse to give to their daughter for Christmas. That birdhouse inspired another project both creative and cathartic.

“Carol got the idea — wouldn’t it be nice to do this for those people,” said Lee.

With connections to the memorial committee in Newtown established and cedar donated by Gordie Fitchett of Queens Bay, “we started cutting,” said Lee.

And the retired couple started building 26 birdhouses to send to the Connecticut community as a memorial to the victims.

Made of Kootenay wood, warm in colour and rich in grain, the houses are beautiful in their simplicity.

“These aren’t elaborate but they’re nicely done,” says Lee.

Finishing touches are what make them special with every victim’s name carved and a butterfly attached to the front.

“Butterflies are free — that’s an old saying,” says Lee.

Adds Carol, “Butterflies are also a new beginning.”

As Carol carved each victim’s name on the birdhouse, she couldn’t help but become more connected to the children who lost their lives.

“As I do each one, I look at their names — Ben, Caroline… and I wonder,” she says. “I really feel for those parents.”

Carol finds happiness in her garden with a green thumb and craftiness; she enjoys the practice of feeding birds coming to her own birdhouse. She doesn’t know how the birdhouses will end up being hung but should the Newtown families keep them in their own yards, tending to the birds could provide a healing ritual, she says.

Started the first week of January, the memorial is almost done and ready to be shipped — for free, a testament to the general feeling of sorrow the shooting caused.

“Obviously everyone feels the same way we do,” says Lee.

Having never done something like this before, their home has been a workshop for the past few weeks with their dining room table doubling as a workbench. Puttering away has been a constructive experience.

“It’s just something we thought would be nice,” says Lee. “All it’s cost us is time and we’ve got plenty of that.”

 

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