If you’ve recently walked around the pond at Rotary Park, you might have noticed some fairy houses along the way. You might have stopped to look at all the details, or to write a tiny note in Grumpy’s mailbox. And maybe if you noticed when the fairy houses appeared, you could have also seen them disappear at the end of April.
The man who designed and built each fairy house, Robert Boyce, told the Town Crier that the houses must have been destroyed between 4 and 6pm on April 29th. He only found out because of a post on the Wilmington Community Board Facebook page about the fairy houses being ruined. It was after this that Boyce finally outed himself as “Grumpy,” the persona he’d been maintaining to remain anonymous.
Robert Boyce is 75 years old and he builds fairy houses in his spare time. He has a few at his real house and the rest are along the pond at Rotary Park. There are five fairy houses for fantasy characters he’s named: Grumpy, Gwendolyn, Thumbelina, Rapunzel, and Wimpy. He said that he was inspired by a video he saw on Youtube of a woman in Kansas who left fairy houses around her town and put an owl on one because of a little girl nicknamed Owl from her town who passed away.
Boyce already had some of the skill and some of the materials that he’d need to get started, since he also has been making and selling his own birdhouses. The 75-year-old retiree now uses the money from his birdhouse business to fund the fairy houses. He usually buys samples of tiny parts or paint or small amounts of lumber from Home Depot, or he uses whatever materials he already has at home. As for where he gets his ideas for new houses, he dreams them up.
Besides materials, all that he needs to get a new fairy house created is motivation. “I’m retired,” he shared, “but I have a life.” He never wanted any recognition for the tiny artwork that he was leaving all around Rotary Park, but he felt like he had to say something once he realized his artwork had been destroyed. His Facebook response received over 400 replies and 500 reactions.
After that, it took a little convincing for Boyce to remake the fairy houses. He happened to meet a five-year-old boy who was a really big fan of Grumpy and the fairy houses. “[He] wanted the fairy houses back,” Boyce explained. “I had to restore them.” He got to work repairing the five fairy houses and they were back around the pond less than a week later. Since then, he’s received a lot of recognition but only ever wanted a thank you.
Today, Robert Boyce is encouraged by all of his interactions with people in town. If he visits the pond to make an adjustment or check on them, he’ll chat with whoever is there while he waits for them to move on before he starts his work. “The best part is seeing the kids’ faces, how happy and excited they are interacting with the fairy houses.” He loves getting to read the notes that parents or children leave in Grumpy’s mailbox, or that people are posting on the Wilmington Community Board Facebook.
He also has a message from Grumpy to everyone who’s sent him a note recently. Grumpy writes: To Victoria, Chase, Joey, Myra, Ola, Kian, Molly, Sadie, Matt, Allegra, Max, Josephine, Shawn, Camden, Sophia, Ben, Sean, Quincy, Ben, James, Nathan, Maya, Olivia, Ida B., Parker, Minnie, Derek, Wyatt, Jake, Angie, Abbie, Sue, Parker, Ethan, Eva, Alyssa, Lizzy, Isabella, Jojo, Hadley, Ellie, Roann, Sam, Louise, Riley, Kim, Jeremy, Alexa, Kennedy, Meghan, and Wilmington Lamplighters: Thank you for your notes! It’s nice to be back. I am sorry if I missed some names. – Grumpy
Boyce wants to encourage young children to use their imagination and to keep fantasy in their lives. He acknowledges that other people in town have been and are welcome to keep adding to the work that he’s doing by putting in a fairy garden or other tiny fairy creations. While Wimpy’s Cottage needs some repair, he assures the town that he’ll have it back in its place at Rotary Park as soon as he can.