YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Linda Wingo says she is not good with dates.
But she is good at letting people know she likes red.
Her yard on St. Louis Avenue in Youngstown is a shrine to the color red. She has been keeping up the shrine for about 10 years, mixed with a dash of superstition, a teaspoon of the Gospel and a pint of TLC.
She took on the project shortly after her husband, Eddie Wingo, Jr., died.
“I just wanted the house to look the way I wanted it to look,” she said.
She adds to the shrine whenever she goes to the store. There are red clothes, dolls, rocks, bottles of water with red food coloring added, crosses, messages about Jesus’ love and rocks covered in foil.
Even the garbage can has a ribbon on it that matches the decorations.
“When I get time, I try to tweak it,” she said.
The foil is there for practical reasons, she told me.
“It’s to keep the devil away,” she said.
Later, however, she added, “I’m not superstitious. I believe firmly in God. If something is supposed to happen, it’ll happen.”
The house stands at the intersection with Hudson Avenue in a neighborhood that has a lot of history on the Crime Beat. When I first saw it a few years ago, I thought it was a shrine to a homicide victim because of how involved it was.
I always wanted to find the person who was responsible for it, but I was never able to until just a few days after Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state was being shut down because of the COVID-19 outbreak. That’s when I drove by and saw Wingo talking to two of her neighbors.
I stopped instantly and explained I had always wanted to meet the person who had decorated the yard and ask them if there was any kind of hidden message.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when Linda told me there was no deep meaning. She just liked the color red and liked how the yard looked.
“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” she said when asked if the yard had some kind of hidden message.“I just like red, and I got a joy out of it.”
But the more I talked to her and the two neighbors — socially distanced, of course — the more I was glad I stopped to chat with Linda. One of the perks of the job — indeed my favorite perk — is meeting all kinds of different people, and Youngstown is full of interesting people.
I don’t know what prompted it, but at one point in our conversation, she went inside and came out with a portrait of her late husband.
At that point, the conversation was not going well. The two neighbors kept interrupting, and it was hard to keep their stories straight with Linda’s. One of them was drinking from a 40-ounce can of beer and the look in his eyes told me it wasn’t his first of the day, and it sure wouldn’t be his last. So, operating under the principle that discretion is the better part of valor, I said my goodbyes after asking Linda if I could come back later. She said that would be fine.
Given the realities of the pandemic, I wasn’t sure when that would be. I decided if I saw her out in the yard again, I would stop and interview her because it is easier to social distance that way than knocking on someone’s door.
I got that chance recently when I saw her outside on a warm, spring morning. She was, of course, working on her yard. She said she not only adds to the decorations but replaces or gets rid of things as well.
She told me she has lived in the house for almost 30 years, when she came to Youngstown at the age of 43 from Oakland, Calif., where she lived with her mother. She now has a son and twin 3-year-old grandchildren who live here.
Her father was from Youngstown and met her mother in Oakland when he was in the military. She visited several times and decided to move here for good because it was a big change from Oakland, she said.
“It used to be quiet and peaceful,” she said of Youngstown before quickly adding, “It’s changed now.”
One thing she grew tired of quickly was snow, Linda said.
“When I first got here, I liked the snow, but I don’t care for it now,” she said. “It changed me.”
She met her husband here at the Sherwin-Williams paint store where he worked for several years until his death. It was not love at first sight, she said, but she was drawn to him as she got to know him more. She does not remember the year she met him, or for how long exactly they were married but it was about 20 years.
“I’m not good with numbers,” she said.
She does not, however, think he would care for the yard now.
“I don’t think he’d like it,” Linda said. “He was quiet, and this was kind of loud.”