'It's our Laurie': Edmonton couple pleads for return of statue that honours late daughter
Couple bought statue a year after their daughter's death
For the past 14 years, Florence Dingwall has always had someone to keep her company while gardening in the front yard of her Edmonton home — a statue of a girl playing the violin.
But it's not just any statue. For Florence, it's a reminder of her daughter Laurie Billington, who died of leukemia 15 years ago at the age of 48.
"I referred to [the statue] as Laurie all the time. And I talked to her whenever I worked around that garden," Florence said.
But as of last Wednesday afternoon, she can no longer have those garden chats. Edmonton police say the fiberglass statue, which was filled with sand and some of Billington's ashes, was taken from the yard in the Avonmore neighbourhood.
It's a major loss for Florence and her husband, Don Dingwall, who bought the statue a year after Billington's death.
When the couple spotted the girl playing the violin at Costco, they were immediately reminded of their daughter. But it wasn't because she was a talented violinist — in fact, quite the opposite.
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She gave the four-stringed instrument a go in high school band.
"She wanted the drums, but they were all gone by then. Everything was picked over, so the violin was there and she said 'well, I'll give it a try,'" Florence said.
"Don and I sat through her practices at home, screeching with that bow on the violin. It was terrible. She knew she was terrible, but we kept telling her she had to practice."
Four days in, Billington quit.
"But when we saw the statue with the girl sitting there playing the violin, that was Laurie," Florence said. "So we bought it."
Don said all that's left of it is the bow, which was found on the sidewalk.
"You wouldn't carry it away very far without a vehicle," he said, noting the statue weighs about 30 kilograms. "It's too heavy."
The couple is worried whoever took the statue will destroy it.
"I don't care who took it or why. Just bring it back," Florence said.
"It's not just a statue. It's our Laurie."
With files from Scott Neufeld