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Unexpected thank you for Halifax artist after Cirillo editorial cartoon

HALIFAX – A Halifax cartoonist, who gained worldwide recognition with a cartoon of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the base of the National War Memorial, is wrapping up his year with the unlikeliest of presents.

RELATED: Nathan Cirillo, soldier and dog rescuer

Cirillo was gunned down in October by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. The next day, Bruce MacKinnon’s cartoon of soldiers on the war memorial offering him a hand and one holding the wounded soldier appeared in The Chronicle Herald.

Ottawa shooting cartoon
Bruce MacKinnon is the editorial cartoonist for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, is being praised for an illustration portraying Canada’s pain over the Ottawa shooting. Bruce MacKinnon/Halifax Chronicle-Herald

The poignancy of the cartoon struck a chord with people across the country and around the world, and one of those particularly moved by the image was Leslie Magwood.

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RELATED: Cartoon resonates with Canadians in wake of Ottawa shooting

The 60-year-old Bridgetown woman is a rug hooker and said she had an immediate reaction after seeing the cartoon in the local paper.

“I said to my mother ‘I’m going to hook this for this man because he deserves it’,” she said.

“He has caught the emotions of everybody. He nailed it right on the head.”

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Leslie Magwood made a rug for Bruce MacKinnon as a thank you for his cartoon.
Leslie Magwood made a rug for Bruce MacKinnon as a thank you for his cartoon. Julia Wong/Global News

Magwood has been rug hooking for 25 years and has entered competitions with her rugs. But she wanted to make a rug for MacKinnon as a surprise and a thank you for his art.

“I’m not a person to write a thank you for what you did and put it in the paper. I just don’t know what to say at times like that but I just wanted him to know I did appreciate it. I felt [making the rug] was the only way I could think of to show him how much I appreciated it.”

Magwood spent about five days drawing and transferring the image onto burlap then spent about three-and-a-half weeks rug hooking.

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At the beginning of December, she and her mother, who taught her rug hooking, made the two hour journey to Halifax to present MacKinnon with the rug in person.

“I don’t know what he expected when he came down. I had it in a bag and I had it facing me so he couldn’t even see it. I just told him, ‘Look, I just loved what you did and I felt you needed something to show how much I did appreciate it’.”

“He just went blank. He didn’t know what to say to me at first. He just kept looking at it and rubbing his hand over it.”

MacKinnon said he thought the cartoon might be the reason Magwood reached out to him but he adds he did not anticipate a rug with his cartoon’s image on it.

READ MORE: Attack on Nathan Cirillo, Parliament Hill tops 2014 Canadian news stories: poll

“She pulled this rug hooking out from the package and my jaw hit the ground. I just couldn’t believe it.”

“My first thought was ‘Wow, this is better than the cartoon’,” he said with a laugh.

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“For someone to take that time, put that much care into something, it was very touching.”

MacKinnon said he no longer has the original of the cartoon; that was given to the Cirillo family.

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“In a way, this is an extremely nice replacement for the original cartoon,” he said of the rug, which now hangs in the hallway of his house.

“It’s so unusual that a cartoon is celebrated in that way. It was so unexpected. It is a nice reminder of a very nice lady.”

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Magwood said members of her family had served in the military but that was not the biggest factor in deciding to make the rug.

“I did it because it was something special. He’s done some beautiful cartoons in the past and I’ve looked at them and loved them but [there was something] about that one,” she said.“I just wanted to do something nice for somebody who I thought had done something nice for Canada.”

MacKinnon said he is still overwhelmed by the response to his cartoon, adding an artist always hope to get any reaction to a piece of work. He hopes the New Year brings more of the same.

“I hope to move on. I hope to be able to provoke equally strong responses from response. I’m a little happier working in the quiet of my office and laying low. If 2015 should bring that to me, that would be ok too.”