For the past 20 years, it hasn’t been uncommon for motorists on a busy Nova Scotia highway to catch a glimpse of a puny yet uniquely charming fir tree decorated with Christmas lights during the holiday season.
But now, thanks to the generous actions of some Bedford, N.S., residents with some unanticipated extra time on their hands, the location overlooking Highway 102 is home to a makeshift heart with a meaningful message.
Ed McHugh, along with his wife and three friends, constructed the 11-foot heart atop the body of dismantling rock in support of front-line workers keeping people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They named the heart Valery, defined as “to be strong” in Latin, with roots meaning “health” and “brave.”
“You want to somehow solve this problem, and we’re all powerless,” said McHugh. “I just wish we could solve it but we can’t, so here’s our way to try and get through it.”
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It’s become a tradition for McHugh to decorate a brittle, undersized fir tree in the same place every winter. He appropriately named it Charlie to pay homage to the holiday classic Charlie Brown Christmas.
“Charlie’s been up there for 20 years,” McHugh said. “Now, Charlie has a buddy out there called Valery.”
But McHugh says the idea to give Charlie a buddy wasn’t his alone. The brainchild for the project, McHugh says, was his longtime friend Ross Lloy, whose initial idea was to relight the Charlie Brown tree.
But after that plan was axed, he came up with something better.
“We all have some time on our hands, and putting something like this up, it was just a good thing to do,” Lloy said.
The project took the better part of two weeks. After determining how it should be framed and lit, Lloy put the heart together in his backyard. They then hauled the heart to the top of the cliff and erected it Wednesday night.
Lloy says it wouldn’t have been possible without McHugh, whom he dubs “Mr. Community.”
“I do not know anyone who does more for community spirit than (McHugh),” said Lloy. “He’s just such a great person.”
McHugh shared photos of the heart on his Facebook page shortly after it was fully assembled. When he woke up Thursday morning, the post had hundreds of shares.
“It shot out like a bullet,” he said. “People really like it. It’s just a sign of faith and human nature.”
Both McHugh and Lloy hope the small gesture both brightens people’s days and helps them remember the dedication of front-line workers.
“Every day, we wait for that number, and every time they discover a case, there’s a family that’s deeply impacted,” said McHugh. “So this funny little bright light is OK.”