When the love of your life asks you to grant her a last wish, you do it immediately. Jim Lawrence kept his promise to his beloved wife, who died eight months after being diagnosed with cancer. Her name was Sheila Lawrence, and together with her husband they have singlehandedly saved a threatened species of swans.
This story will break your heart, but you must get to know these real-life heroes!
20. It’s Been Seven Years…
Sheila Lawrence, Jim’s wife, passed away in 2011, but even after seven years, he keeps his promise. Every morning, he goes through his backyard towards a bank to the Mississippi River. You won’t believe what he sees every winter.
19. Winter Fairy Tales
Right across his backyard, Jim sees a magical landscape that reminds him of his dear departed wife. Every morning, he goes there among them to feed thousands of trumpeter swans. Here’s what he said…
18. Telling People Stories About Sheila
‘She worried about them’, said Jim about his wife. It’s obvious that the story ends badly for him, losing his wife to cancer… But her only wish was to have someone care for the swans. What she said right before dying will break your heart.
17. ‘Of Course’
‘Will you feed my swans?’ And I said ‘Of course,’’ – remembers Jim. And this is what he does: he takes care of the swans for his wife and tells everyone willing to listen to stories about the ‘Swan Lady’. Here’s how everything started…
16. The Swan Lady
It all began about 30 years ago when Sheila started feeding the swans from her backyard. She only had a few swans and over the years, they have gathered. Now Jim has to feed hundreds and even thousands!
15. Ready for Winter
Whenever winter comes close, usually in November, Jim sees the swans coming to the Swan Park. And every morning he keeps his promise: ‘My passion is to make sure her legacy continues’.
14. ‘The Bird Whisperer’
Jim said that ‘maybe she was the bird whisperer’. And this is how Sheila got the name ‘Swan Lady’. Even all the mail they received was sent to Swan Lady and no other address was needed because it would always get to her. He gets mail too…
13. A Contribution to Society
Sandy Suchy, the director of the Monticello Chamber of Commerce & Industry stated that Sheila Lawrence’s selfless act has ‘put us on the map’, bringing photographers and tourists to the city to watch the birds. And that’s not all!
12. Early Years
Sheila worked in a few manufacturing plants and then she joined Medtronic in Fridley as an assembler. It was that place where she met Jim and married in 1980. Four years later, they built that house in Monticello.
11. A Safe Haven
They were lucky because, in winter time, the water discharge from a power plant would keep the river open. So, wild birds came over the winter. Sheila first fed the ducks and geese, when four years later a few pairs of swans arrived.
10. Hours of Work
It took Sheila hours to move buckets of corn to the place where swans used to rest. Years after years, Sheila and Jim fed the birds without seeking much attention. But their efforts would soon be noticed…
9. Tourists Were Captivated
The number of swans coming to the city was so huge that the city made the free lot next to the Lawrence home a Park – named Swan Park. The chamber of commerce also published a brochure that had the history of the Monticello swans and directions.
8. It Only Takes an Hour
Feeding so many birds would seem time-consuming, but Jim gets the work done in under an hour. Sheila, however, used to spend her whole day with them. Here is what her husband remembers…
7. What Sheila Would Say…
‘I know she’s saying, ‘You’re still walking too fast when you feed’’, imagines Jim. He would reply: ‘I know Sheila, but I’m just trying to feed. You wanted to talk to every one of them.’ It’s so beautiful to hear him talk about his departed wife with so much love.
6. Swan Lady Man
Jim now gets mail under the address of the ‘Swan Lady Man’, and he’s fine with it because he wants to make sure that his wife’s legacy continues. And for that, he needed funds, so he has a non-profit organization for it.
5. Donations in a Drop Box
Jim also gets donations at the viewing platform in Monticello’s Swan Park. With that money, he gets to pay a part of the corn that he gets every week: 200 bushels once a week! So, every morning at 10:30, the magic happens.
4. People Must Know…
‘I want people to know about the Swan Lady, and what the Swan Lady did’, said Jim. He will tell everyone the story if they go by and watch him feed the beautiful birds.
3. An Amazing Soul
Sheila has been an inspiration to everyone and her memory is preserved by Jim Lawrence. These are a few of her words on her work: ‘The Trumpeter Swan is an extraordinary bird. They have been part of the human experience since the beginning of time.’
2. Jim and Sheila
Sheila said about the swans that ‘they have given me experiences which I will always cherish.’
1. True Love
And with Jim by her side, even cut short, her life was a wonderful time on Earth. Now Jim honors every second of it and he makes good on his promise! This is true love.