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A son's crosswise gift of love

Forest Lawn resident Corry Wood dedicates ice sculpture to his dying mother

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 01, 2014 06:00 am

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  • FROZEN MAJESTY – The ice cross on Fawcett Crescent.
    FROZEN MAJESTY – The ice cross on Fawcett Crescent.
    CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette
  • SCULPTOR – Every year Wood builds an ice sculpture from blocks of ice. He's been doing it for about three years.
    SCULPTOR – Every year Wood builds an ice sculpture from blocks of ice. He's been doing it for about three years.
  • TRIBUTE – This year Wood's sculpture is a tribute to his mother Donna Wood, who is dying. He spends as much time with her as he can and this year he has dedicated the sculpture to her.
    TRIBUTE – This year Wood's sculpture is a tribute to his mother Donna Wood, who is dying. He spends as much time with her as he can and this year he has dedicated the sculpture to her.
  • IT'S A LOT OF WORK – Corry Wood has painstakingly constructed a 16-foot cross that stands like a beacon of light and joy at his home on 48 Fawcett Cres.
    IT'S A LOT OF WORK – Corry Wood has painstakingly constructed a 16-foot cross that stands like a beacon of light and joy at his home on 48 Fawcett Cres.

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A loving tribute to his mother has resulted in a spectacular ice sculpture on Corry Wood’s front yard.

The St. Albert resident has painstakingly constructed a 16-foot cross that stands like a beacon of light and joy at his home on 48 Fawcett Crescent.

Lit from within, the massive self-supporting cross took more than 74 hours to build using nearly 650 ice bricks. The bricks were shaped and assembled according to a detailed pencil sketch used as a blueprint.

“I was going to keep going. I could have maxed it at 18 feet, but I only went 16 feet because it was too cold,” he chuckles.

This engineering marvel is Wood’s fourth creation. His first in 2010 was a captivating pond peopled by skating penguins. The second was mystical 14-foot pyramid. And last year, he created a picturesque village with a six-foot church, a 25-foot bridge over a lazy river, a cluster of houses and a school.

This year the whimsy is supplanted by the cross’s more serious tone. In 2012, Wood’s mother, Donna, was diagnosed with lung cancer. To give her encouragement in 2012, he built the church into his yardscape. On October 31, 2013 a CAT scan revealed Donna’s cancer had metastasized to the brain.

Wood had begun planning his 2013 winter scene – an igloo and penguins – in the summer clearing out the front lawn’s deadwood.

“But I changed my happy scene and put it this way. It (the cross) even faces my mom and dad’s house in Stony Plain,” Wood said.

Using the modern day technology of a GPS, he was able to pinpoint the exact direction. At first glance the cross appears to face the street at an odd angle. Yet its directional significance is of paramount importance.

Wood is also constructing two smaller crosses.

“The big one is for my mom and the others are for other people fighting cancer or people who fought and won.”

When asked why he chose the cross, a symbol of life and resurrection to many, Wood becomes reflective.

“I’m not sure,” he replies. “I’m not religious. Maybe it makes me feel better about my mom.”

Despite facing some enormous hurdles, Donna is handling the diagnosis with a positive outlook. When asked about her son’s dramatic gesture of love, a look of pride and a high-wattage smile creases her face.

She replies, “How many sons would do that for their mother? I’m blown away. How can words describe it? It’s a journey that’s about hope and positivity.”

But in seeing mother and son together, their genuine affection for each other is evident in a teasing grin or a questioning glance from across the room, or that warmest gesture of all – a bear hug.

And these bonds were developed while Wood was growing up in the country. His father was a long-haul truck driver and his mother was the boss in her husband’s absence. She also raised quarter horses.

“I didn’t like school. So when dad was away I’d make a deal with her to clean up the barn if I could stay home from school,” he grins.

Donna joins in the laughter. “I’d get a call from the school. ‘Is Corry going to come this month?’ He’d get off the bus but didn’t manage to make it to school.”

Always pushing boundaries, Wood was the kid that tested a parent’s patience.

“I wrecked her car twice. I threw a party and wrecked her house. But you should see it now. I fixed it up nice. I always got caught, but she always stood behind me.

Now he is returning the compliment by blending different elements of his tactile world – creativity, invention, critical thinking and technical skills – into play.

Building this architectural monument turned into a mind-mangling challenge. First, Wood piled snow at the lower end of his sloping yard to even out the surface.

“If I didn’t level it, that sucker ends up in the street,” he laughs.

Starting November 3, he froze close to 1,900 litres of water in 2.2 litre Tupperware containers and gradually built a terraced base using quick-freezing slush as mortar.

“It was a challenge building it straight up so it would stand on its own. There’s no frame, no wood. Just ice. I used to put other material inside to support it – wood, shrink wrap, plastic. But it didn’t matter what it was – minus four or minus 20, it would warm up and melt the ice. It took me five years to figure it out,” he laughs.

The vertical portion of the cross was relatively simple to construct – two bricks on each side of the four-sided pillar piled layer by layer. Temporary wood braces were propped around the exterior of the cross to prevent it from giving way.

As the vertical portion grew in length, Wood simply brought home scaffolding from work. Wood is co-owner of Taurus Woodwork, a custom finishing company in Campbell Park.

Defying gravity and anchoring the self-supporting arms proved to be the real challenge. Through trial and error, the lanky carpenter came up with an ingenious way of attaching the bricks borrowed from similar woodworking techniques used at his shop.

“You don’t do it all at once. If I had tried to build the whole arm and put it up there, it wouldn’t work. You have to put it up piece by piece, brick by brick.”

Oh yes, and two weeks ago when St. Albert received a heavy rainstorm and the city was filled with bumper-to-bumper white-knuckle drivers, Wood was all smiles.

“There was such a gloss on it. It just shined up right. And when the light is on, it just glows at night.”

Working after hours in the darkened evening, passersby have stopped to comment using words such as “awesome” or even “genius.”

“One guy passed by and asked, ‘Are you allowed to do that?’ Another lady came by in her car and rolled down the window saying, ‘I want to thank you for putting it out there.’ Some of my neighbours are even teary-eyed about the cross.”

It appears that everyone who sees the cross interprets it in a different way. However, Kelly, Wood’s wife expressed in eight simple words the emotions shared by all. “He puts a lot of heart into it,” and it shows.


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