From the green flag emblazoned with the iconic white “S” logo flying above the front yard to the brightly painted lawn gnome by the door, it is clear to anyone approaching Edna Thorsen’s Sunnybrae home that she has a passion for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Thorsen’s impressive collection of Roughriders memorabilia includes everything from salt and pepper shakers and mugs to coats and blankets but the centrepiece of the collection was stolen earlier this month.
Thorsen’s handmade illuminated Roughriders sign went missing from her front yard sometime on Oct. 5 or 6. The sign is special to her both because of the team it represents and the hard work which went into making it.
“They crawled up the stupid bank and pulled the plug out. They could’ve left it there and we all could have enjoyed it; no one can enjoy it now,” Thorsen said with tears in her eyes.
The sign was made of a four by six-foot sheet of plywood and lit by strings of green Christmas lights. The white S and the sheaves of wheat on the sign were expertly carved out of separate sheets of plywood and attached by Peter Berger, a friend of Thorsen’s who is a retired cabinet maker. In the photographs Thorsen has of the sign, it is seen by the side of Sunybrae-Canoe point Road, brightly lit with its impressive 3D effect on display.
Berger has also been helping to look out for Thorsen as her husband died seven years ago and she has since suffered a stroke.
Thorsen and Berger worked on the sign for many hours last winter before she was finally able to hang it up in the spring. She had just traded the string of clear bulbs on the “S” for an external floodlight, achieving the look she had dreamed of, when the sign was stolen.
The disappearance of the sign is especially disturbing for Thorsen because she says nothing has ever gone missing from her yard in the quiet Sunnybrae neighbourhood.
“I’m not even afraid to leave my doors unlocked, really, but I am now,” she said.
Thorsen’s history with the Roughriders goes back decades. She grew up in Paddockwood Saskatchewan, but really became a fan of the team when she moved to Sunnybrae with her husband in 1996.
Although she has never seen the Riders live, Thorsen is a die-hard fan who says she remained excited watching the young and rebuilding team as they struggled early in the season and is now even more invested as they have achieved an 8-6 record putting them in third place in the west.
She says she watches most of the Roughriders games at Berger’s house now as she doesn’t have cable, and alarms him by cheering loudly when the team scores.
Her biggest hope for the remainder of the season is a playoff game against the division-leading Calgary Stampeders, which will help to stoke the friendly rivalry between her and her grandson who is a Calgary fan.
Thorsen’s sign, like the rest of her lovingly kept collection of Roughriders curios, is a great source of pride for her and she says she doesn’t see how the thief could possibly display the stolen sign as proudly.
“If you’re a Roughrider you know what pride means. It’s an inner thing. It’s like family, it’s proud, you can’t even explain it,” she said.
For Thorsen, the team and their fans represent perseverance and determination. The players on the field have pulled off numerous last-minute victories while the fans in the stands brave long drives to tough it out through bitterly cold late-fall games at Regina’s outdoor stadium.
Thorsen said she is still holding out hope that whoever took the sign will be influenced by their conscience to return it.
“I hope he drops it off, I went out there yesterday to take a peek and see if he got guilty.”
Thorsen said she would just be grateful to have the sign lighting up her yard again, but whether she gets it back or not, her Rider pride shines bright.