Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

For Dave and Joyce Hunsaker, a collection of Nutcrackers marks their 20 years together

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

The display is a walk through 20 years of life lived by Joyce and Dave Hunsaker.

It all started with a single Nutcracker figurine they bought while honeymooning at Niagara Falls.

"It started as a good idea - and became an obsession," Joyce says with a smile. "I started making them the year we were married."

They both enjoy the Nutcracker ballet, and attend a performance every year.

"I've been going for 30 years, 20 years with Joyce," Dave says.

"It's so much fun to see the ordinary through the extraordinary eyes of children," Joyce says.

Each year, near Christmastime, Joyce would begin working on designing a Nutcracker to reflect some event in their lives.

Now she can buy a "blank" Nutcracker to design as her own; in the past, she would purchase one to sand down and reconstruct.

"It was a real labor of love," she says.

These Nutcrackers reflect both big and small events in the Hunsakers' lives - the memories that make up their life together.

"Life is all about the little bits and pieces," Joyce says. "The everyday, wonderful, delightful things."

Every year, the newest addition makes an appearance on Christmas morning - sometimes with the paint still wet.

"It's so much fun, and they take on a life of their own," she says.

There is one that commemorates the two houses they've built - the figure holds house plans in one hand, nails from the construction and is labeled with the company name "Costa Plenty Construction."

Another is adorned with long black hair and native dress - this is Sacagawea, the person Joyce brought to life on stages across the country from 2000 to 2008.

Another is dressed in a surgeon's scrubs and mask.

"We had so many major medical things that year," she says.

Then she upends the figure to show the original date - plus three more to mark other medical-heavy years.

She hopes not to add another date to that one any time soon.

Then she holds up another one, wrapped in white athletic tape.

"Ten years ago we did a trip of a lifetime to Egypt," Joyce says.

Her Nutcracker for that year?

"I mummified Osiris," she says.

The figure also is inscribed with hieroglyphics from the Book of the Dead.

Another Nutcracker is more modern, with a gold puffy vest, fur-lined hood and shovel.

This one reflects Dave's work at Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile, with the Conservation Volunteers International Program.

The Hunsakers moved back to Baker City in 2011 after being gone for 10 years with Dave's jobs with the BLM.

He was project manager and then manager of the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City from 1989 to 2001. Then he spent five years as manager of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah, followed by a job as the deputy director for the national landscape conservation system in Washington, D.C., from 2006 to 2008.

The Hunsakers then moved to Colorado where Dave was the associate state director of the BLM until his retirement in 2010.