Ladner sign decorator tells his story

‘John’ has outfits for every occasion to dress up heron

Have you ever wondered who might be responsible for the wonderful and creative decorations that pop up seasonally and on special occasions on the Welcome to Ladner sign on Ladner Trunk Road?

Well, after the Optimist published a letter from a resident recently who said she missed seeing the heron dressed up, our newsroom received a call from the man responsible.

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He wishes to remain anonymous, not looking for any community praise or much publicity, so for the purpose of this story we will call him John.

John has lived in Ladner with his family for more than 30 years. He originally lived in Vancouver, moved to Richmond and then Ladner - a community that he loves and cherishes.

“It’s a good community. I’ve always been involved in coaching, sports and active in the community,” he said. “One day my family and I were travelling across the Lions Gate Bridge and I saw the two lions that sit at the bridge and someone had put hockey jerseys on them. I thought what a great idea. It was in my head and Delta had just changed the welcome sign and included the heron. Someone put a hat on it, and I thought I could do better.”

So he started adding more decorations as the seasons changed or for seasonal holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Canada Day.

The decorated heron soon became the talk of the town.

“I would be out shopping and I would here people saying ‘did you see the heron. I wonder who is doing that’ and I would be literally standing right beside them,” he recalled. “My kids loved helping me. It was a big stealthy thing when my daughter would dress up in black and we’d go out after dark and decorate the heron and then stealthy drive away.”

John says he has outfits for every occasion with six Rubbermaid bins in his attic full of decorations that he’s acquired over the past 10 years or so from local thrift shops and area stores.

He makes sure that he cleans the sign, picks up garbage in the area and uses a special kind of tape to ensure he doesn’t damage the sign.

“It started out with seasons and morphed in everything from Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day,” he said. “I sometimes put in little messages. The time when Roberto Luongo was traded from the Canucks I put in a bye-bye Bobby Lou. That one hurt a bit, but I’m always careful to not make any political statements.”

There is a Facebook page dedicated to the heron decorator with more than 2,000 likes.

“I feel like I have to do it. If I miss something, like over the summer I didn’t do anything people notice. I like the community part of it. If it puts a smile on someone’s face that’s huge. Some people know who I am, but I think the mystic about it is really kind of cool. I love Ladner and you don’t see things like this in other communities. It’s what makes us special I guess.”

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