I’ve been watching the news online to see how things were going with the Stephen Huneck Gallery since Stephen’s tragic departure. I think many have been worried about whether the gallery, dog mountain, and the chapel would survive. And, I know many people just cannot understand how with his international notoriety there has not been an art benefactor to come in and provide aid.
I’ve also been worried about his wife Gwen and his employees, who saw this wonderful man as part of their family. Here is a Jan 14th update that I just discovered from Charlotte Albright on VPR News.
At the time of his death, Huneck was apparently despondent about having to lay off all his employees, and feared losing his land, home, and business in the wake of the economic downturn.His close friend and assistant, Will Eason, says a newsletter had gone out to 4,000 customers asking them to help keep the company afloat, but it brought no financial help.
Now, ironically, the orders are pouring in faster than employees, working now without pay, can fill them.
(Eason) “We’re so overwhelmed with orders right now, I mean that is excellent. If it’s one thing I knew Steve liked, it was to have orders coming in. He liked having his business do well. And if he could call down to the shop, he would ask if everybody’s working. ‘What are ya’ doing? Get to work.'”
(Albright) But Eason and three other employees are working through intense grief.
Eason says his burly, jocular, unorthodox boss automatically made memories for anyone who met him. Which may explain why Dog Mountain’s Facebook page is flooded with condolences from all over the world.
Even Huneck himself was surprised by the popularity of the Chapel, as he told VPR in a 2007 interview.
(Huneck) “And who would have thought that this place would be such a huge national and international draw? I was on the cover of Life Magazine and they said that Dog Mountain, where we are right now, was one of the six places in America that you had to visit before you died.”
(Albright) Now, ironically, it’s a place where people may pay their last respects to him.
But the future of his business and home is still uncertain. Staffers say there’s very little cash left, and they worry about his wife, Gwen, who is still in seclusion.