Hugh Whitney noticed their absence as he mowed the front lawn of his South Road home that morning. He assumed that his wife, an attentive weed whacker, had moved them inside to do some detailing around a tree trunk and to give him more maneuvering room with the lawnmower. Or perhaps they had been moved elsewhere in the yard; in their 20 years in the Whitneys’ care, the garden gnomes had migrated about the property more than once.
But when he came inside to ask her where they had gone that Tuesday morning, she had no answer for him.
“Where’s Snow White?” he asked.
“Where’s Snow White?” she repeated back to him, distraught. “I don’t know what you mean!”
Twenty years ago, Joyce Whitney acquired and personally cleaned, fired, and painted the eight-piece ceramic set through her and her daughters’ business, Top of the World Ceramics, located on Route 9. The store stood across the road from the Whitneys’ primary business venture in Marlboro: Whitneys’ Marlboro Store, known in its most recent manifestation as Sweetie’s. Since then, Whitneys’ Marlboro Store, Top of the World Ceramics, and Sweetie’s have all shuttered.
But Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, until last Tuesday, endured.
“I was terribly upset,” says Joyce Whitney. “I couldn’t imagine why someone would take them.”
The lawn gnomes, painted and repainted over the years, were a staple of the drive down South Road, where, until their disappearance, they greeted not only the Whitneys but townspeople, students, professors, and musicians on the bucolic thoroughfare. Lynn Lundsted, daughter of the Whitneys and a lifelong Marlboro resident, says that town residents knew it was summer when they saw Snow White on the Whitneys’ lawn. Families paused on their drives so that their children could test their memories in naming the dwarfs.
“It’s mean,” she says, accompanied by a chorus of agreement in Marlboro. Town residents are surprised that anyone would so brazenly violate the atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in the quiet country town. The Whitneys have lived in the house for the entirety of their marriage, 56 years. Its previous owners were Hugh Whitney’s parents. And not once during that time, says Joyce Whitney, has anything ever been stolen from their home.
“I’ve had them forever,” she says. “I’m devastated. We’ve never had anything stolen from here, never.”
The Whitneys have erected a sign—“Snow White and Seven Dwarfs stolen from here”—to draw attention to the disappearance, in addition to notifying the Vermont State Police. The police receive many calls like this one, and they advised the Whitneys to keep a lookout on Facebook, Ebay, and Craigslist to see if their gnomes are being offered for sale. Joyce Whitney says she has seen similar sets fetch up to $999 online.
“I come out every morning and keep hoping they’ll be there, and they’re not.”
Police say the investigation is ongoing.