Honoring a mother in a touchingly uncommon way

Late last month, Kingston artist David Boxley allowed us to interrupt his work on a totem pole commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution. He was very gracious in letting our three-person crew poke around his workshop and needle him with questions for more than an hour while he was on a tight deadline. You can read the story and see the photos and video here.

After we finished our interviews and photos, Boxley insisted we take home some gifts.

Before I could think of a tactful way of explaining that we couldn’t accept gifts, he handed us each a bag with a few small items.

Inside was a button pin, a packet of flower seeds and a few trash bags.

Then he told us each item was in honor of his mother, LaVerne Welcome, who had recently passed away after a long life in the Tsimshian community of Metlakatla, Alaska.

The pin had a traditional Tsimshian-style design he made for his mother’s headstone. The flowers were his mother’s favorite variety.

“And the trash bags?” I asked.

He directed me to a little note that read:

“For more than 22 years, my mom would walk from our house to the Duncan Museum with a garbage bag to pick up trash. She would admonish the children when she saw them throw trash on the ground to use garbage bags. She inspired the Annette Island school district to have a “Spring Town Clean Up” day in which the school children received a day off to pick up trash.

She loved this community and always wanted it to look its best. Please use these bags in memory of my mom, LaVerne Welcome.”

Not a bad way for a thoughtful son to honor a thoughtful mom.

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