Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pirate Ship Carries On Boy's Legacy

Pixie Woods, the city park turned wonderland, offers castles and tunnels; merry-go-round and miniature riverboat rides; swings and slides to play on; and even a fire engine to explore, all to catch a child's interest and spark his or her imagination. Its newest visual attraction - a diminutive pirate ship under attack by a giant squid - is sure to do that. But it also serves as a memorial to a young life cut far too short. The ship, dedicated Sunday, is named for Joshua David Albert Garner, who died on Mother's Day 2007 at age 2. Dozens boarded the Pixie Woods train Sunday afternoon for a short ride to a vantage point to see the ship and to share some of their thoughts for the day. "The spirit of Joshua is here for thousands and thousands of children to enjoy," said Yvonne Sampson, Pixie Woods board member. Kathy Nelson Knight, another board member who helped raise funds for the pirate ship, said the original Pixie Woods construction took only a year from conception to completion. The Joshua pirate ship project took about five months, with backing from city officials and Pixie Woods leaders, and with generous community funding."That to me is amazing, that 54 years later that same collaboration is still working," Nelson Knight said. Linda Jeffers, Joshua Garner's grandmother, said the family dedicated a trust fund and together with Nelson Knight raised more than $15,000 toward construction of the attraction. Pixie Woods directors put up the balance of the $17,000 cost. The design for the ship, resplendent with gold and red paint gleaming from its upper deck, came from Ron Farnsworth, a veteran art director who works in movies, television and exhibitions. Farnsworth, who also painted the exterior of the Pixie Woods volcano, offered a painting of a pirate ship to the Garner family. "We immediately knew it was exactly what we wanted," Jeffers recalled. Joshua loved guitars, firetrucks, trains and boats, she said. "He had a pirate ship above his bed," said Vanessa Garner, Joshua's mother. The pirate ship itself was built atop a 14-foot aluminum boat at Quality Cabinets in Stockton, so it could be floated into place before being secured to steel rods driven into the lagoon bottom. Farnsworth crafted the giant squid in his living room from flexible foam over an aluminum frame and covered with weather-resistant silicone.

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