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Halloween chills in Sunbright

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By Michelle Hollenhead

One Sunbright couple’s love for Halloween — and each other — can be found in their own front yard.

Roger and Yolonda Freels spent several months fashioning the perfect outdoor holiday display, with two “cemeteries,” a skeleton horse-drawn hand-crafted hearse, skeleton mice, cats, dogs, an owl and a fish, and even a macabre home-made “crematorium.”

The couple decided to go “all out” after forgoing festivities last year due to Roger’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“We didn’t even do Christmas,” said Yolonda. “So, when we started this year, it just kind of snowballed.”

She launched a surprise attack by purchasing the life-size skeleton horse unbeknownst to her husband,

“I ordered it from Home Depot, and didn’t want to tell him because he usually would say ‘no,’’ said Yolonda with a mischievous grin.

Roger not only didn’t oppose piecing the horse together, he also didn’t balk when she started sketching out a hearse.

He bantered right along with her in describing the outcome.

“Any man who has ever been married knows never to say no to a woman, because you can’t win,” he said with a smile.

Other decorations, such as bats, lights, sounds, gravestones and more human-sized skeletons were added — most of which were purchased at Big Lots, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Halloween Spirit, Yolonda said.

Meanwhile, the hearse truly became a labor of love for Roger, who used real wood, real wagon wheels, and an assortment of other materials in its construction.

The depiction is scarily realistic. Clear and curtained windowpanes offer a glimpse of a purple coffin inside, while a skeleton mouse keeps watch.

The couple, who have been married for 15 years, said that his current chemotherapy treatment has been much easier to bear this year, allowing him to work side-by-side with his wife on the decorations.

“He worked on it so hard,” Yolonda said, adding that he did still get tired at times, but was able to pick right back up after a little rest.

Yolonda said the oversized project was finished just two weeks ago in the barn behind their farmhouse-style home.

Moving it proved tricky.

“We loaded it into a truck, to bring it to the front yard,” she said. “We almost took out the cable wires, and it was so heavy, I thought we were going to have to get the Sunbright football coach to let us use some of the players to move it.”

The effect is stunning; even more so after dark, said Yolonda.

“It really does look cool at night.”

She said Halloween has long been her passion, and decorating and dressing up have only ramped up through the years. Their home has touches of Halloween inside, too, and a true passion for her is making costumes.

She counted off Wizard of Oz and children’s book characters, along with a variety of witches, Medieval garb, and, “just about anything you can think of,” among her creations.

Yolonda said she and her husband are both constantly working on projects.

“It is a lot of fun,” she said.

With Halloween almost behind them, Yolonda is already looking ahead.

“The wheels are turning,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “I’m going to surprise him.”