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Nanaimo senior creates magical moments with public gnome homes

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NANAIMO, B.C. -

 “Hello,” Charlie Pickard says after leaning down to knock on a small, colourful door attached to the trunk of a tall tree. “Anybody home?”

The 82-year-old has spent more than a decade regularly visiting dozens of these homes for gnomes, after a co-worker introduced him to a book about their inhabitants.

“He said, ‘Charlie! Let’s go out to the forest and build a gnome home for (our) kids,” Charlie recalls with a smile.

After constructing a door out of twigs and moss in secret, they watched as their children discovered it with wonder.

“I still remember my daughter’s eyes were exploding with magic,” Charlie smiles. “She saw magic. It was wonderful!”

Decades later and recently retired, Charlie’s wife reminded him of that moment while they were walking through an undeveloped lot near their home.

So Charlie began building a bunch of gnome homes in his garage workshop and attached them to the trees in the lot, much to the delight of the neighbours.

“They were so happy,” Charlie recalls. “It just made my heart soar.”

It inspired Charlie to transform his garage into a gnome home workshop, and after getting permission, he placed more than 45 gnome homes in almost half a dozen parks and other public locations.

“It was about giving people a few moments of happiness,” Charlie says. “Especially children.”

But Charlie never imagined how meaningful those moments might be for the adults who happened upon them too.

“This woman came up to me,” Charlie recalls. “And [she] was just in tears telling me the story.”

They were tears of gratitude from a daughter who saw how a gnome door inspired her mom with Alzheimer's to suddenly recall long-forgotten happy memories.

There were also tears of hope from another mother who saw how the magical door at the transition house inspired her child — who she’d fled from violence with — to smile for the first time in months.

And then there were tears of solace from the mourning parents visiting the Little Spirts Garden at the burial park, where Charlie gifted a gnome castle

“Oh, that was a tough one,” Charlie says fighting back tears. “But I wanted to do it.”

Perhaps Charlie felt like he had to do it. Because like he regularly removes each door to repaint, repair, or replace it, before reinstalling every one, Charlie knows that if you’re fortunate enough to make magic, it’s your responsibility to maintain it.

“What’s really important to me is giving back,” Charlie smiles. “Acknowledging what you’ve been given and in return making other people happy.”

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