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Mother who started holiday displays for handicapped son still decorating, to honor him
Rochelle Gardner poses with some of her creepy decorations outside of her Stafford home. Each year Gardner decorates her house in honor of her late son, Matthew Lucas.
Marie Sicola/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By Rob Hedelt
FOR a dozen years, Rochelle Gardner had worked at bringing throngs of visitors to her Stafford County home at Halloween, Christmas and Easter.
Her severely handicapped son, Matthew, couldn't go out trick-or-treating at Halloween or caroling at Christmas.
So Gardner decorated her yard and home at 130 Cranes Corner Road to bring the world to him, using lights, music, dozens of homemade and blow-up figures to keep a steady stream of motorists coming at the holidays.
It was a joy the mother and son shared, he delighting in the lights and sights of so many visitors, she dressing in costumes to scare Halloween visitors and delight Santa fans at Christmas.
But when Matthew died in 2007, it hit Gardner hard, and the word slowly got out that her days of holiday decorating were over.
"That's when they started coming: the letters tucked in our mailbox," she said. "The ones from the kids, some in crayon, were the ones that really got to me, saying things like 'Please come back, Santa!' and 'I'll be good if you bring Christmas back!'"
Older regulars and those with handicapped children stressed how much they had appreciated years of being able to easily see big Halloween and Christmas displays--Gardner's setup around a circular drive made it accessible to all by car.
"Those notes and that support gave me the spirit to keep going," said the woman who loves the holidays like few others. "And we still do it in honor of Matthew."
Because of her unique caring for all who visit, the interesting displays she erects at the holidays and the hard work that goes into all the decorating, Gardner is singled out as this year's Fun and Fascinating Halloween House.
The same prize-winning honor applies to her Christmas display, which for years has been in this column's list of best-decorated homes.
I visited with Gardner earlier this week to find out what drives her to spend a week putting up Halloween decorations and two weeks to erect her Christmas displays, with a slightly smaller effort at Easter.
COOL HALLOWEEN HOUSE
The Gardners' highly decorated house is at 130 Cranes Corner Road. You reach the home by turning at the traffic light on U.S. 1 that has Cranes Corner Road on one side and Enon Road, State Route 627, the road to Stafford High School, on the other.