(Host) Dog lovers and art collectors around the nation are still reeling from the news that Stephen Huneck took his life last week.
In addition to producing whimsical prints, carved furniture, children’s books, and pet toys, Huneck built a chapel on "Dog Mountain," his knoll in St. Johnsbury.
The chapel is a shrine for pilgrims from all over the world who left little notes in memory of their pets.
VPR’s Charlotte Albright reports.
(Albright) At the time of his death, Huneck was apparently despondent about having to lay off all his employees, and feared losing his land, home, and business in the wake of the economic downturn.
His close friend and assistant, Will Eason, says a newsletter had gone out to 4,000 customers asking them to help keep the company afloat, but it brought no financial help.
Now, ironically, the orders are pouring in faster than employees, working now without pay, can fill them.
(Eason) "We’re so overwhelmed with orders right now, I mean that is excellent. If it’s one thing I knew Steve liked, it was to have orders coming in. He liked having his business do well. And if he could call down to the shop, he would ask if everybody’s working. ‘What are ya’ doing? Get to work.’"
(Albright) But Eason and three other employees are working through intense grief.
Eason says his burly, jocular, unorthodox boss automatically made memories for anyone who met him. Which may explain why Dog Mountain’s Facebook page is flooded with condolences from all over the world.
Even Huneck himself was surprised by the popularity of the Chapel, as he told VPR in a 2007 interview.
(Huneck) "And who would have thought that this place would be such a huge national and international draw? I was on the cover of Life Magazine and they said that Dog Mountain, where we are right now, was one of the six places in America that you had to visit before you died."
(Albright) Now, ironically, it’s a place where people may pay their last respects to him.
But the future of his business and home is still uncertain. Staffers say there’s very little cash left, and they worry about his wife, Gwen, who is still in seclusion.
But they also hope she will take comfort from the thousands of e-mailers who are remembering her husband fondly. Huneck assistant Will Eason, who calls Dog Mountain his second home, says Huneck’s art will always tell the story of a life well lived, and of a one-of-a-kind man.
(Eason) "I would say Steve’s heart is as big as his laugh, when you really get him going. Man he had a chuckle on him and a heart of gold. You could see it in his art, a sense of humor. You know, he’s always good for a witty comeback or a joke and he will definitely be remembered in all of our hearts."
For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright, in St Johnsbury.