Updated: September 14, 2004 at 12:00 am
A child’s crayon drawing of a pumpkin, with tears rolling down its carved face. The sympathy card from one of Nick Venetucci’s many fans said it all. Hundreds gathered Sunday at Widefield High School to remember The Pumpkin Man. He died from a stroke Tuesday at age 93. Friends shared Nick stories, laughed at good memories, wiped away tears. Majel Dire wore a pumpkin costume and handed out Halloween candy. It was the look she sported during the years she helped Venetucci with the scores of schoolchildren visiting the farm in Security. Two students from Venetucci Elementary School presented his widow, Bambi, with a basket of pumpkins and bou- quet of flowers. Suzanne Royer, Venetucci principal, estimated 500 people attended the service. She delivered one of the eulogies. “He would always say, ‘This is my field of dreams,’ ” she said after the service. “I looked out at the audience at all those generations — we’re talking old old and young young. That to me was a field of generations who shared his field of dreams.” Venetucci’s legacy started in the 1950s, when he would drive his truck along Tejon Street to give pumpkins to children. Then they started coming to his farm . . . and the rest is history. Busloads came from all over. “He was there holding up traffic with all these school buses trying to get in there to get pumpkins,” Widefield resident Sam Weimer said. “That’s how busy it was. Nobody cared. Everybody liked him.” Patricia Decker, 30, of Colorado Springs, recalled his gentle nature. “I would go when I was 7, 8 and 9,” she said. “He would be in there helping you. He’d say ‘Do you need help?’ or ‘Here’s a good one.’ I took my daughter Serina there. I wanted her to try to get a feel for that.” A $100,000 statue of Venetucci will be unveiled soon at the Pioneers Museum. The project was funded by millions of pennies collected by children. When the drought took a toll on Venetucci’s pumpkin crop in 2002, Pikes Peak Elementary School student Courtney Messmer delivered a bunch of handmade ones. “The whole entire school, we all made pumpkins for him, to give him back what he always gave us,” said Courtney, 9. She, like generations of Colorado Springs kids, never had to go through the Charlie Brown angst of waiting all night in the pumpkin patch in hopes the The Great Pumpkin would come. They knew the Great Pumpkin by name — Nick Venetucci.