Big deer makes memory live for Toronto family

TORONTO, Ohio -The 16-foot reindeer at Tresa Ward’s house on Josephine Street gets her a lot of comments near Christmas.

“People enjoy it,” she said of the reindeer made for her and her daughter, Charlyn, by her late husband Charlie. “They ask us, ‘Do you have it up yet?’ I think some people in town look forward to it.”

The impressive reindeer is made all the more poignant as it was her late husband’s last woodworking project before dying of cancer on Oct. 18, 2012. But he didn’t give up without a valiant fight, according to his wife.

“He was positive he was going to beat that cancer,” she said, adding he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. “He was sure he was going to beat it. He grew up here in Toronto. Most people knew Charlie Ward.”

Although he eventually succumbed to the disease, Charlie Ward did leave behind a legacy that he dedicated to his wife and child.

“He always used to get craft books in the mail,” said Tresa, adding she and her daughter frequently asked him to make some of the crafts they would see in the books. “We saw that reindeer, and we thought it was unusual. I mean, how many people have a 16-foot reindeer?”

Things were looking up in the summer of 2010, as Charlie’s treatments were working, and his cancer was in remission.

That’s when his woodworking hobby resumed, and he created the reindeer, said Tresa.

“It took him from May to the beginning of September to finish this reindeer,” she said. “He had to wear a mask because of the sawdust. it took him 10 sheets of plywood to make it.”

The reindeer had another mate, but Charlie became too ill to finish it, she added.

“He got too sick before he could finish (the other reindeer),” said Tresa. “My daughter and I are going to make it this summer. We still have the patterns he made.”

This is the third Christmas the spectacle has graced her yard, and the second year without Charlie to see it.

“This would be the third year we’ve had it up,” she said. “We put it up the day before Thanksgiving.”

Family members all come to help, and the first year Charlie was there as well.

“Charlie was there, and he would boss us around, but he was too sick to help,” said Tresa.

The reindeer has attained a following of its own, and is a momento to the memory of her husband, she said.

“That’s how I see it – as a tribute to him,” she said, adding the couple were married 21 years. “It was something we asked him to do. We usually leave it up until the first day of February.”