Allyson Eckman and Reneé André had even more of a reason to celebrate Halloween this year.
In 2008, André was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment.
“Reneé always loved Halloween and decorated for Halloween,” Eckman said. “But when she was diagnosed, she put all of her decorations in the attic. This year, she brought them out to celebrate her survival.”
Plastic rats, buzzards, axes, skeletons, monsters, man-made cobwebs, bubbling cauldrons and tombstones transformed Eckman’s home into a house of horrors.
“We are over 50 and were getting bored,” Eckman said with a laugh. “The child in us has come out.”
Eckman, André and Julie Elzer are lieutenants of the Artemis “Pink Ladies” float, which honors three breast cancer survivors and two other cancer survivors among the 17 float members. The elaborate decorating was for a Halloween party, the float’s way of celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Eckman’s den is decorated with cobwebs covering several mounted deer trophies taken by her husband, Dr. Richard Eckman, a retired dentist.
“They have been working on this project for a month,” said Richard Eckman, whose television room has been completely taken over with Halloween.
A tombstone fills the dining room fireplace as a lighted ghost peers through the window. The table was filled with party food for the celebration along with a boiling cauldron, lighted eyes, a platter of teeth and a large centerpiece with a buzzard about to strike its prey.
“I brought out my mother’s old silver trays, unpolished, of course,” said Allyson Eckman, a dental assistant and float lieutenant designer.
“I just have the stuff, but Allyson designs all of this,” said André, who works with Stage One, her family catering business.
The guest room, or shall we say “grim reaper room,” is enough to scare the bravest of souls. It is guarded by a life-sized gorilla about to smash a Barbie doll. Two frightening monsters sleep peacefully in the double bed as Dracula watches through the window.
A hallway from the kitchen leads to a mausoleum with a skeleton in a mink stole and hat. Even the bathroom is decorated with a skeleton hanging from the shower.
Allyson Eckman let her backyard grass grow for several weeks to achieve the desolate look for the graveyard created off the patio. The outdoor tables were centered with skeleton heads. Refreshments were served from coffins in the yard as two fogging machines created an eerie atmosphere.
“The decorations are an accumulation of 20 years of collecting and adding each year,” André said. “I have always been a Halloween baby.”
She well knows the significance of October, not only for Halloween celebrations but also for its importance to breast cancer survivors.
“Seeing everything in pink makes me so proud,” said André, who learned to laugh through the difficult times following her diagnosis.
“I live every day,” she said. “If cancer teaches you one thing, it teaches you how to live.”