I am so filled with sadness, but it cannot compare to what Gwen Huneck is experiencing. She is the wife of the incredibly talented and recently deceased artist, Stephen Huneck. I have always felt a bond to this man, even though we have never met. A lover of both Golden Retrievers and Labs, he had been diagnosed with the same disease that took my father’s life in the span of 3 months.
In 1994 Stephen was diagnosed with Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) after falling down a flight of stairs. He actually had to be brought back to life and was in a coma for two months. Doctors were not hopeful, but with the help of his wife, Gwen, Stephen had a full recovery. He had to relearn everything from how to walk to how to sign his name. And, he kept carving away, creating the iconic images, such as the one above, that will be forever linked to him.
I have carried Stephen’s one-of-a-kind line since I created my foundation’s store as he was the first artist to provide me with special pricing given the mission of my foundation. He knew that his angel images were quite popular, and especially so for my organization due to dealing with cancer and bereavement issues.
I remember being so excited about his newest *Golden Retriever* creation that came out last year, entitled “Goldens Rule“. Most of his art is Labrador Retriever themed, but he had been very busy coming out with new breed art.
Recently, Stephen began making changes to his pricing and throwing sale after sale. He even was giving away gifts with every purchase. And, he had put up information at his site about selling his home, the Healing House, at Dog Mountain. Obviously, this horrible economy was effecting him and he was trying everything possible to hang on. I just didn’t know how serious the situation had become …… until I received an email from Gwen Huneck detailing Stephen’s taking of his own life.
When I was in private practice I mainly worked with youngsters experiencing anxiety, depression, and learning based disorders. Only once did I work with a young man who successfully committed suicide, and it was solely to perform a cognitive & personality assessment. I have never forgotten that youngster, who in fact, had a Golden Retriever. It is very hard to know you have done everything possible and yet still be unable to alter such a negative course of events.
It is with great sadness that I share with you the news of the death of my Husband, Stephen Huneck, Thursday January 8th. Tragically Stephen took his own life. Stephen had been despondent for some time now and was being treated for depression.
Like many Americans we had been adversely affected by the economic downturn. Stephen feared losing Dog Mountain and our home.
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. I could see how devastated he felt and tried to reassure him that the most important thing to me was that we were together. I told him how much I loved him, that he had accomplished so much in his life he should feel proud not ashamed.
I said how, I was constantly being told by visitors to Dog Mountain how much they loved his artwork. They also told me how meaningful the Dog Chapel was to them and how grateful they are that Stephen had created it.
Stephen and I discussed his feelings of despair and he said he would be seeing his psychiatrist the next day and would talk it over with her. He seemed to be looking forward to his session. He got up early Thursday morning to go see her. Stephen drove to the doctor’s parking lot and while parked in his car, shot himself in the head.
I wished I could of reached him some how. Stephen gave so much love and joy to the world through his warmth and openness as a person and a great artist. I hope he will be remembered as that joyous soul.
On the last page of the “Dog Chapel” book Stephen wrote “you too can build a chapel, in a place that’s always open in your heart”
Please remember Stephen in your hearts. Yours truly, Gwen Huneck
The video below, from 10 months ago, is so tragic when you realize that Stephen is speaking about his wonderful life and all that he feels he has been able to do, even with respect to giving back to charities. He did much to help others in need. It did make me smile at one point, though, when Stephen called himself a hippie. I could see the sweetness and lightheartedness as he smiled at the remembrance of those times.
I received this note from Golden pal Leann in Rhode Island:
Though his art was fun and unique, that place Rochelle, is something you never forget once you have seen it. A doggie heaven on earth with those beautiful green rolling fields for a good ole back roll and scratch, hiking paths for running and 3 ponds for a great dive in and dog paddle along the hiking route. What a guy, he knew what our fur friends would love and created it.
Too much sadness. Even though Stephen was surely suffering and trying to stave off great despondency, he continued to provide love and more via his annual summer dog parties at Dog Mountain. This video is from August 3, 2009.
Please check out my continuing tribute to Stephen, recognizing his making a difference for so many others in need. Just click here to learn more about his Chasing Away K9 Cancer.