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Sheep for the lambs

WALNUT — The sheep are no longer grazing the hillside east of Walnut.

Instead, the 20 sheep, handmade by long-time Walnut resident Guido Ledergerber, have been delivered to Newtown, Conn., a gift in memory of the 20 young children murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14.

“I had a dream,” Ledergerber said.

The sheep have long been a part of Ledergerber’s lighted Christmas display, which spreads across the front yard of his home. Ledergerber began making Mary, Joseph, wisemen, sheep and a variety of other figures about 30 years ago. He kept adding more and more figures to the display until about 10 years ago, when he finally considered the display complete.

The killings in Sandy Hook preyed on Ledergerber’s mind, and in the early hours of Tuesday morning, he suddenly was wide awake.

“I must have been dreaming about it because the idea just came to me,” he said.

The idea was to take 20 sheep to Newtown, one for each of the children who had died.

Ledergerber could hardly wait until morning to ask his wife, Sue, what she thought of the idea. When she woke up, she was supportive, as was everyone else he told.

“Everyone I talked to thought it was something good,” he said.

But there were a few problems. First of all, there were only 15 sheep in Ledergerber’s front yard.

Actually, there were only 14.

“One of the lambs was actually a dog,” he said.

Ledergerber was also almost out of the steel rod he used to form the figures. Fortunately, there was almost exactly enough for the six new sheep.

In addition, the lights on the figures are hard to find. Ledergerber said Sue was on the telephone most of the day looking for the lights. She finally found them in Freeport so Ledergerber had to make a quick trip to pick them up.

Next was finding out who to contact in Newtown. Ledergerber called the Newtown Fire Department, who put him in contact with the Newtown Park District.

“When I talked to them, all had tears in their voices, but they said they were hanging in there,” Ledergerber said.

The park district told him they would put the sheep up in a kind of pasture area across from one of the churches. Due to the number of funerals, they asked Ledergerber to bring out the sheep, and they would put up the display over the weekend.

Lederberger’s son-in-law, Jonny Barnas, left with the lambs at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The support continued, as one person offered to pay for the gas, while another picked up the tab for the motel bill.

Ledergerber said he told the park district they can do whatever they’d like with the sheep after the display is taken down, whether to keep them all or give one to each family.

Ledergerber isn’t sure whether he’s going to make more sheep for next year’s display, but he’s glad he was able to give up these sheep, and hopes they bring some comfort to the grieving parents.

“The sheep are going to be in a better place,” he said.

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