With a frying pan for a head, Peter Pan is one of 150 guffelwarfs who welcome visitors to Len Van Roon’s Charleswood home.
“The neighbors love them,” he says.
“There are no crowds or anything, but there are people who bring their friends over to have a look at them.”
Twenty years ago Van Roon found some interestingly shaped pieces of dead fall in his yard and began to craft characters from them. When his grandson asked him what they were, Van Roon told him they were guffelwarfs.
Kerry Trager lives across the street from Van Roon and looks out her window at his guffelwarfs every day.
“I think they’re pretty neat,” she says. “People actually slow down to take a look and get out of their car to check them out.”
When Van Roon found out his artwork was attracting people, he decided to continue.
“I don’t go at it too heavily, but if I find some approach, some sort of meaning to it, I start at it again.”
Rita Rosendahl and her husband have been neighbors to Van Roon for 40 years. She regularly takes walks down his driveway to see the figures.
“I think they’re pretty unique. Each one has its own story,” she says.
Van Roon recycles materials from around his home and works them into his projects.
“The accumulations of junk from over the years lend themselves to making something,” he says.
“There’s one out there called Brain Drain and I used an old tap for its head. Another one with taps for the feet is called The Tap Dancer.”
Paintings fill the walls of Van Roon’s home where he grew up.
“Charleswood is a wonderful place to grow up. It was a small community and people helped each other. Even now it has retained something of that spirit, just being a nice place to live.”
He has been living in his house, built in 1928, for 84 years. A painting he made of the original house hangs in his living room, where the original 400 square feet of his home still stands.
“I’ve kept up my painting for quite a few years, but I slack off now because I’ve run out of wall space.”
Along with his artwork, Van Roon is recognized within the community as an important member of the Charleswood Historical Society. He was integral in creating a memorial on Berkley Street for those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.
“It was a big project. We didn’t have a nickel to start with but I knew some of the fellows and I thought it was necessary that their names be remembered.”
Photos and paintings that cover the walls of his home display his own experience in the army. Even a guffelwarf soldier lies down on his lawn, camouflaged under some leaves.
After his 3 year service in the army, Van Roon returned from the war and married his wife Verna who was also very involved in the community.
“I figured I was just support for her because everything she tackled was a success.”
Verna passed away early last year. Her picture rests on the sill of Van Roon’s living room window.
“She was a beautiful person. We were married 64 years. Sixty-four good years, not just years.”
At 91, Van Roon may not move around as fast as he used to, but his wit is quicker than ever.
“I’ve been retired now for 25 years and I’ve got this lovely time. I might as well use it.”
You can check out Brittany Paulhus’ blog at http://brittanypaulhus.wordpress.com/