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Forever home sought for Nanoose Bay’s iconic gnome

NANOOSE BAY, B.C. – Nanoose Bay’s giant gnome is looking for a forever home.

“We’re looking for a place to spend the rest of his days,” said Bridget Matewish, whose grandfather Ron Hale built Howard, the iconic, 25-foot, 10-inch tall gnome.

‘Howard the world’s tallest gnome’ is being offered for free to the right owner.

Howard has been standing at the Chevron Station at 1660 Island Highway for years, and now Matewish is hoping to find a place in a public setting where he can be preserved and appreciated.

The clock is ticking. The deadline to move the gnome is April 30.

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“We’re just looking to find him a great home where he can still be in a public setting, where people can go and take photos of him and enjoy him; a place that’s going to upkeep him, keep him clean, keep in good repair, because that’s not the case at this time, where he can be enjoyed for years to come,” Matewish said.

It’s not a matter of if Howard is going to be adopted, but where he will end up. Offers have flooded in, including some from as far away as Nova Scotia.

Closer to home, suitors have stepped forward from up and down Vancouver Island, including the owner of a campground near Sayward “who is very, very interested and is a top candidate for us,” according to Matewish.

“We’ve had amazing people reaching out with fantastic stories and photos, and it’s been a really heartwarming experience for all of us… who have got to see the impact that the gnome made on all those people’s lives,” Matewish said.

She noted that the family will choose the best home for their beloved gnome based on longevity of his life, his exposure, and how he is going to be cared for, with a preference towards the Oceanside community “just because that’s where he’s always been.”

“We would love to keep him there,” she added. “A lot of us still live in that area and we would really appreciate having him nice and close to us so we could go visit him as family, too.”

Howard has a long and colourful history.

Matewish’s family operated an amusement park for roughly 35 years before shutting it down and opening the gas station along the highway.

The theme to the amusement park was “Gno man’s land.”

Matewish explains the origin of the name: “We had little tiny garden gnomes all throughout the gardens and it was kind of a family hub.”

The park had go-karts, slides, and merry go-rounds, and trains, among other attractions.

When Matewish’s grandfather Ron Hale retired in 1997, he decided to build a mascot for the amusement park

That was how Howard came into being.

“My father was running the amusement park and my grandfather wanted something to do with his free time, so he decided to build this gnome,” Matewish said.

It took Hale about a year to build the gnome. Considering the cornucopia of materials used to build him, Howard was a ‘Franken-gnome’ that Hale hand-built in his garage.

The gnome’s face is made out of foam, his feet are fibreglass, and his clothing consists of pulp mill felt. Howard also includes tin, plastic, and plaster on his hands, with rebar in his interior.

“He’s a recycled material gnome,” Matewish said. “He’s very trendy that way.”

Howard stood at the amusement park for a handful of years before it shut down.

Fast forward to today, and the family is considering setting up a GoFundMe account, to raise funds for a new trailer base to transport Howard, so he isn’t a financial burden for his new owners.

Anyone still interested in ‘adopting’ Howard can visit the Facebook page, ‘Howard, the world’s tallest gnome.’

A decision on Howard’s forever home will be made sometime in the middle of March.

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