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Builder Of Vermont Dog Chapel, Stephen Huneck, 60, Commits Suicide

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Stephen Huneck
Stephen Huneck, shown with his dog Salvador Dali, built a dog chapel on his Dog Mountain property in Vermon. (Toby Talbot/associated Press)

A very sad story coming out of Vermont. Our condolences to the Huneck family in these trying times.

— Kenn

By John Curran For The Washington Post

Folk artist Stephen Huneck, whose whimsical paintings, sculptures and woodcut prints of dogs celebrated his love of animals and won him a worldwide fan base, committed suicide Jan. 7. He was 60.

His wife said he was despondent after having to lay off employees at his Dog Mountain studio and dog chapel, near his home in St. Johnsbury, Vt.

“Stephen feared losing Dog Mountain and our home,” Gwen Huneck wrote in a letter announcing her husband’s death. “Then on Tuesday we had to lay off most of our employees. This hurt Stephen deeply. He cared about them and felt responsible for their welfare.”

Mr. Huneck shot himself in the head while sitting in a parked car outside the office of his psychiatrist in Littleton, N.H.

“He was one of the most creative and active members of the Vermont crafts community,” said Jennifer Boyer, co-owner of the Artisans Hand craft gallery in Montpelier, Vt.

Mr. Huneck, a native of Sudbury, Mass., started out whittling wooden sculptures and later moved on to dog-themed furniture, like the wooden pews eventually installed in the chapel. The chapel, built in 2000 with wood harvested from his 175-acre Dog Mountain property, was a miniature version of the 19th-century churches that dot Vermont’s landscape. It had vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows with images of dogs pieced into them.

“Welcome all creeds, all breeds. No dogmas allowed,” the sign outside said.

Dog lovers made the trip to Vermont just to see the chapel, many writing handwritten notes to long-gone pets and affixing them to the interior walls.

“When dogs pull up in here, they may never have been here before, but it’s like they saw the ‘Disneyland’ sign,” Mr. Huneck said in a 2008 interview with the Associated Press. “They just get so excited, so happy.”

Mr. Huneck wrote several books about his Labrador retrievers. The books had woodcut prints accompanied by quirky captions.

“He seemed to create works and captions that just captured that expressed every dog lover’s insights into owning and loving animals,” said Irwin Gelber, executive director of the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, a library and art center where Huneck often gave readings.


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Laurie Lomillo
Laurie Lomillo
10 years ago

To the family of Stephen Huneck- The world along with you has lost a Great Man, words can not help heal your pain as I just lost my brother Steven at a the same age as your husband……..My only thoughts for you is oneday you will be together again and until them know that many are sharing in your loss… God Bless- Laurie and her K9 kiddies
I hope oneday I am able to visit his gift to K9's

lilpudgin
lilpudgin
10 years ago

To Gwen and all Stephen's furbabies,
Life has lost a very dear and patient man. I had the priviledge of meeting Stephen at Dog Mountain in July 2009 at which time he signed a “devotion” print with 2 yellow labs—my girls, Kalli & Maggie. He took the time to talk “dogs' with me and share his passion for animals, artistry, and family.
Having lost my own father last year, he showed compassion although we had just met. Please accept my prayers for all of you and may God bless you and keep you close.

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