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80-year-old Port Alberni man fills home with more than 270 eclectic nutcrackers

Port Alberni, B.C. -

“This is how it all began,” Kenn Whiteman smiles, holding a statue of a regal-looking rodent.

“Turned out to be the Mouse King in ‘The Nutcracker.’”

Kenn happened upon the character 45 years ago, while shopping for something else, and bought it.

The purchase inspired him to the read "The Nutcracker" story and listen to Tchaikovsky’s music.

“I thought, ‘Wow! This is pretty fascinating,” Kenn recalls.

That led to Kenn to start collecting nutcrackers.

“The appeal is the hunt,” he says.

That means Kenn and his wife Linda Whiteman would never walk past a garage sale without stopping.

“He’s got a good eye for these things,” Linda says.

“There’s nothing neater than when you can see a nutcracker at the back of the garage,” Kenn says. “And then the anticipation of getting it.”

There’s also the pleasure of knowing that when you bring it home, there will be no other one like it.

“The elation is finding a nutcracker that you’ve never seen before,” Kenn says.

Kenn’s collection is currently on display in three rooms around their home.

“As you can see,” Linda smiles. “It’s quite overwhelming.”

More than 270 colourful characters greet you in the front entrance and surround you in the living room, before lining the dining room floor, and covering the table.

“I do appreciate the beauty of them,” Linda says.

When you look beyond the quantity of nutcrackers, you notice the diversity of them, ranging from hockey players to Wizard of Oz characters, surfers to RCMP officers.

“The variety is amazing,” Linda says, before moving the mouth of nutcracker that's six feet tall.

When asked why he’s spent more than half his life collecting them, Kenn is initially self-deprecating.

“I was thinking about [going to] therapy,” Kenn laughs. “Nutcracker therapy!”

But if you ask the 80-year-old about how he spent the time between collecting, he’ll tell you about working as a registered psychiatric nurse, clown school instructor, city councillor, and prolific volunteer. And you start to see that both Kenn and the Nutcracker character share a common goal of helping others.

“It’s service above self,” Kenn says. “It’s just being involved in the community.”

Which is why the couple is hoping to sell the Nutcracker collection to someone who can display it publicly.

“Where others could see them,” Linda says. “And enjoy them.”

And like that first nutcracker did for for Kenn, all those years again, spark an enduring sense of wonder. Top Stories

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