Randy Stenger works in traffic control for Springline Construction – not necessarily an emotional job. However, a recent assignment ‘tugged at his heart strings.’
Last week Stenger’s boss called him aside. Dan Kelemen is project supervisor for the road work Springline is doing near Buckerfield’s. He asked Stenger if he knew the circumstances behind the little memorial set up between 10th Avenue SW and Highway 1.
Stenger knew of Vinny Larson, knew he had died in a fire at his camp there in March 2020. Kelemen asked Stenger to find out what he could regarding who was behind the memorial, as the company would have to remove it but wanted to do so in a dignified, respectful way.
Stenger said he was moved that he was asked to take care of it.
“They’re a very caring company,” he remarked. “It’s nice working with a company that’s like this.”
Stenger took to social media to see what he could find out.
“I was so nervous when I did those posts, I thought, there’s somebody who is going to be negative on it, but I was totally surprised. There was nothing but positivity.”
Monica Kriese, who organizes the Food with Friends lunches in Salmon Arm along with Chrissy Deye, responded to Stenger.
She asked if Stenger could box up the memorial so she could pick it up. She brought it to the lunch program on Friday, April 2, to see if anyone attending who was friends with Vinny had suggestions for its placement. Ideas are still welcome, so people may drop by the lunch program which runs in the parking lot behind the Crossroads Free Methodist Church. It’s Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at noon.
Stenger said he took down the memorial with great care.
“All of the sticks in the little teepee, I was picking through all of them as some of them had writing on. I did it just about individually, stick by stick, looking for any memorial tributes to Vinny. Anything that had writing on was boxed up and everything was done with care,” he said.
He also removed the small sleeping bag in the teepee and all the remembrances on the nearby utility pole. One ornament was broken so he dug through surrounding debris and found the missing piece.
“Even the fellow that lived right across from the memorial, he came over… He’s like, ‘What’s happening with it all?’”
The neighbour recounted how he brought Vinny hot meals now and then and he was very appreciative.
Stenger said even though he never interacted with Vinny himself, the process was still moving.
“Regardless of the situation, someone losing their life, especially in a fire like that, it’s sad.”
One moment in particular stood out.
“The only really weird thing that really struck me emotionally was when I was taking it down. In the little teepee area, I just kind of stood back for a couple of minutes, just to take a breath and gather my thoughts.
“And out from the teepee came a little mouse. It looked at me, it wasn’t even scared. It sauntered about and then came, just sat there and looked up at me. It was almost like it was a spirit of Vinny sort of thing… It tugged the heart strings.”