All through the summer, Kevin Beckman, 6, visited his grandfather’s garden in West Islip to check on his prized pumpkin.
It was a final gift from his grandfather, Thomas Beckman, who planted the seeds in May, about a week before he died abruptly of liver failure, Kevin’s aunt Ann Marie Pesa said.
Under Kevin’s watchful eye and with help from his uncle, the gourd grew to about 100 pounds and became a vibrant orange. He displayed it proudly on the front steps of his family’s Lindenhurst home — that is, until it was stolen on Friday, the family said.
“He was devastated. He was crying,” Kevin’s mother, Deirdre Beckman, said. “He saw it as the last thing he got from Pop.”
Then just as suddenly, the gourd was back Tuesday night. It was on the front lawn when Deirde Beckman and her son drove back from religion class about 8:30 p.m., she said.
"It's back, it's back," Kevin screamed from the back seat, trying to open the door before the car stopped.
He hugged the long-lost pumpkin and knew it was his grandfather's prize because there was the duct tape he had put over a quarter-sized hole gnawed by a squirrel. Plus, the pumpkin was green in the back, his mother said.
"I'm ecstatic," Deirdre Beckman, 39, said. "Of course we cried."
The family had offered a $500 reward for the pumpkin’s return, but who returned it is still a mystery. There was a scrawled message on the back of an iTunes gift card packaging to call about the pumpkin, but Deirde Beckman said no one answered the number given.
Pesa, of West Islip, posted about the missing pumpkin on Facebook Sunday. The post has since been shared more than 1,100 times, and residents had even started to leave pumpkins for Kevin at their home, the family said.
Thomas Beckman grew pumpkins every year, and before he died, filled his grandson’s head with visions of a huge pumpkin harvest. The one stolen Friday was the largest that had ever come from the garden, Deirdre Beckman said.
“It really felt like a gift from him,” she said.
Pesa said the home is near Lindenhurst High School, where students recently launched a scavenger hunt. She believes the pumpkin may have been taken as part of the hunt and she thought they would never see the gourd again, that it was going to be smashed.
Tuesday night, the family voiced thanks to the community for its support and to a man who was gone, but not in their hearts.
"Yes, the great pumpkin caper is over," Deirde Beckman said. "Pop was looking down on us and returned it to us."