As many of you know by now, we lost a founding and very special member of our business family last year. Shawn Trostle passed away suddenly in March 2019 at the age of 46 from an enlarged heart.
As a 13 year old boy, Shawn stood out easily among the seventy five or so high school students I had hired to pick strawberries his first summer on the farm. He was a little bigger than others his age and was more than a bit of a devilish prankster. He always seemed to be happy, cheerful and ready to cause just a little good humored fun. I knew right away that he was someone to keep an eye on. He was someone who was going to be a valuable asset to our team or he was going to lead others into various mischievous good times. What I found from the very beginning is that he was both. He was a leader because he was extremely confident for a person of his age. He was a prankster because he enjoyed it and was a little stronger, quicker and more playful than others his age. He quickly got promoted to working with the older teenagers on our farm crew doing all the tasks needed to keep a farm operating. Besides, I could keep a better eye on him in this position.
For the next five years Shawn became a more and more valuable employee. He was the farm crew leader by the age of seventeen. Hardworking, honest, loyal and could and would break any piece of equipment he operated sooner or later. It wasn’t that he tried to break things it was just the way he lived, pedal to the metal.
Shawn was still working for us seasonally, going to college, bar tending and living the life of a free spirit when we crafted the first gourd in 1993. That first gourd we crafted changed almost everything for our business and Shawn was right there offering to help. That more than anything sums up the Shawn we loved. He could break most things he touched, he could make a mess so big that it was easier to ignore it than remind him to clean it up. But if you needed help you never had to wonder if Shawn would be there, he always was and he stayed till you were done without ever complaining. In later years, we didn’t even ask Shawn to help with extra projects, we just knew he would be there.
As we crafted more and more gourds our business began to become very successful. What were always seasonal jobs became full time jobs and Shawn became our first full time employee. Shawn wore many hats and held many leadership roles. One day he might be on the farm and the next in a major city at a trade show selling gourds to all the ladies that adored him. Then you might find him washing, shipping or finishing gourds. He was always a leader and always being helpful.
As we continued to expand into retail and gourd workshops, more of our customers knew Shawn and looked forward to seeing him. Our customers loved him for the same reason we did, if he could help you he would, his kindness showed thru to everyone around him. Little kids and older folks especially saw his gentle heart behind the long hair and what now had become a grey beard.
The very last gourd that we know of Shawn helping to create from scratch was for a little girl named Lorelei. Shawn had met her at a gourd workshop several years before. She was only about 9 but already had several lifetimes of medical issues, each of them nearly fatal. The two of them bonded instantly and Shawn took it as his special mission to make sure he helped her every time she was at our farm. Seeing her and helping her meant the world to Shawn and Shawn meant the world to Lorelei. I think Shawn saw someone special he could help and I think Lorelei saw who Shawn really was.
The last gourd Shawn helped to create was for a charity Lorelei was passionate about. You see Lorelei only has half a heart but that half holds more love than you can find in ten whole hearts. She wanted to raise money for the foundation that gave her a special service dog, Mandu. Her dog has saved her life multiple times and she wants to make sure others can have that too. Lorelei is featured on Marvel's Hero Project on Disney+ for the advocacy work she does for Veterans and children born with complex medical conditions. When Shawn found out Marvel was turning Lorelei into an official superhero, he was so proud of her and just wanted to celebrate the way he and Lorelei always did- by serving others.
Mandu, Lorelei's Service Dog
The Meadowbrooke gourd family will now be making up to 1,000 gourd dogs in Mandu’s likeness and in Shawn’s memory. We are going to complete the mission that Shawn, Lorelei and their friend Kara started. We are going to help make sure that other people can live more independently and achieve their dreams with the assistance of a service dog by donating all the profits to Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD), an Assistance Dogs International accredited organization. These are the same folks that raised, trained, and continue to support Mandu, the dog who has kept little Lorelei alive. Right now, SSD needs a better equipped facility to meet the needs of the amazing animals it trains to become working dogs and our fundraising efforts will help make that happen with the expansion of a kennel run dedicated to Shawn's memory. Your support will make that happen. Shawn's legacy will always be a part of Meadowbrooke Gourds, Inc. Now it will also be a part of an amazing facility that brings hope to so many people.