Note sparks friendship, changes Halloween

 Royal Oak residents Heather and Mike Weichbrodt, their daughter Eloise, Jay Duronio and Milo Weichbrodt pose with some of Duronio’s decorations.

Royal Oak residents Heather and Mike Weichbrodt, their daughter Eloise, Jay Duronio and Milo Weichbrodt pose with some of Duronio’s decorations.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


By: Nick Mordowanec | Royal Oak Review | Published October 30, 2017

 Royal Oak resident Jay Duronio, top middle, stands with Mike and Heather Weichbrodt and their twin children, Milo and Eloise, both 7 years old, of Royal Oak, Oct. 28. Milo has become infatuated with Duronio’s decorations the past few years.

Royal Oak resident Jay Duronio, top middle, stands with Mike and Heather Weichbrodt and their twin children, Milo and Eloise, both 7 years old, of Royal Oak, Oct. 28. Milo has become infatuated with Duronio’s decorations the past few years.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 One of Duronio’s decorations includes a man climbing out of a grave.

One of Duronio’s decorations includes a man climbing out of a grave.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 Milo wrote this note to Duronio this year to ask him to set up his Halloween decorations.

Milo wrote this note to Duronio this year to ask him to set up his Halloween decorations.

Photo provided by Heather Weichbrodt

ROYAL OAK — Milo Weichbrodt is infatuated with the fall season.

On the first day of autumn the past four years, the 7-year-old and his twin sister, Eloise, have strapped on their boots, put on their jackets, drawn pretend maps and ventured down the street to “Pumpkin Face House” on Hawthorne Avenue.

The house belongs to another Royal Oak resident, Jay Duronio, who is unofficially known as the head Halloween honcho in those parts. With his house close in relation to Main Street, people come from near and far to see the creepy and the kooky every October.

Decorations have included a full-fledged cemetery, two giant “pumpkin men,” zombies, a wicked witch with a cauldron, skeletons, scarecrows, a casket, vampires, fog machines and a giant hearse — which was damaged and led to a smaller hearse being erected.

Last year, the kids were finally able to meet Duronio, and he even let the kids see the inside of his home. A friendship was born.

“We’d take walks every day and stand in these poor people’s front yard and stare at the decorations,” said Heather Weichbrodt, the kids’ mother. “Each year, (Milo) got more and more obsessive over it.”

This year was different though. The Weichbrodt kids engaged in their common ritual, only to find that Duronio, 43, had no decorations on his property. It was plain and without fanfare, and it crushed young Milo, who was originally enthralled with the pumpkin men.

“I love Jay’s house because he has so many Halloween decorations and balloons,” Milo said. “I’ve loved his house for so many years, since I was maybe 3. Seeing his house decorated makes me feel so happy, I want to explode. It makes everyone smile to see it all. My family and all our friends love it too.

“I felt very, very, very sad when he didn’t put up his decorations. It felt like it couldn’t be Halloween yet without it.”

Weeks passed, and still nothing. By the second week of October, Milo begged his mother to leave a polite note on Duronio’s porch. It was a succinct request: “Please, please, please” put up your decorations.

Duronio, who normally starts bringing decorations down from his attic in late September and adds to the intrigue throughout October, said he found Milo’s note and felt like an “idiot.” He plastered it to his fridge, only to become self-conscious every time it infiltrated his peripherals.

“Every time I walked past my fridge (and saw Milo’s note), I thought, ‘Scrooge,’” Duronio said.

After originally deciding to forgo the physical hassle of turning his yard into a Halloween haven, he changed his mind and aimed to make Milo’s dream come true. It took Duronio just five days to put everything up, with Milo, Eloise and their friend, Seamus, helping Duronio in the process.

“I didn’t even know that Milo and his sister come down here on a regular basis over the years,” he said. “I didn’t know until (Heather and I) became friends on Facebook and she sent pictures from years prior.

“I felt like it was almost like a punch in the gut. I always decorate for Halloween, regardless if I’m sick or anything. When I got that note, it warmed me a little bit. It was almost like it was Christmas on Halloween.”

When Milo realized the note worked, he said he wanted to hug Jay and thank him over and over again for making it feel like Halloween was official again.

“It made me so happy, and Jay is now my awesome friend,” Milo said. “That makes me happy. He’s my Halloween friend. I love Jay and his house, and we can never move away from pumpkin face. It’s my favorite time of the year.”

Heather said the note has galvanized the community. The neighbors heard the story or watched it transpire, and the story made its rounds on Facebook and drew even more attention.

“(Jay’s) made an impact,” Heather said. “Halloween is him now. It’s a part of him. … It was so heartwarming to everyone in our neighborhood, to see this little boy and this guy working together to enjoy this.”

For Jay, Milo’s wake-up call changed his perspective. Being a “big kid” himself, he became invigorated again to excite both children and adults for another year. He continues to add numerous decorations, so much so that he said his home is like the Bronner’s equivalent for Halloween.

“I kind of got teary-eyed,” he said. “I guess I can’t leave this area anytime soon.”