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This Widower’s Touching Tribute To His Wife Lay Secret For 17 Years, Until A Pilot Spotted It

Heart forest - widower's tribute

Love generally finds us when we least expect it. It comes fast and furious and easily changes your priorities in life in an instant. When love found young man Winston Howes his life changed forever. He and his beloved, Janet, set off on the adventure of a lifetime until the worst happened. A grieving Winston spent decades attempting to reconcile with his emotions, and channel his pain into something constructive. What he’d end up doing would serve as a unbelievable testament to the power of love, but it’d remained a secret for nearly two decades. That would all change when an unassuming pilot happened to spot the amazing scene.

1. Love At First Sight

Some people don’t believe in love at first sight. But there are always exceptions to the rule. For young couple Janet and Winston Howes, cupid struck them with his arrow of love hard and it quickly turned into something from the pages of a movie script. For them, love was instantaneous and unquestionable.

Winston Howe - heart forest widower's tribute

Daily Mail

Winston and Janet’s whirlwind romance all began back in the late 1950s, and the moment that their eyes met, they knew that it was love at first sight. But their story wouldn’t turn out to be a classical Disney romance. In fact, their great love would face the most testing of upheavals before an expecting figure would discover the true power of their bond years later.

2. A Beautiful Day For A White Wedding

After meeting, Janet and Winston were convinced that they were meant to be together. And after just a few short years of dating, the two decided to tie the knot. Neither of them were particularly wealthy, but together, drive by their unbreakable bond, they knew that they could find a way.

Heart forest

Drew Coffman

Winston and Janet married in the picturesque English town of Stroud, a countryside community known for its warmth and quaint charm. The happy couple got married in the center of town where everyone could see and share in their beloved day of bliss and happiness. It was undoubtedly the perfect day, but that was far from the perfect ending to their story.

3. The Long Haul

The wedding went off without a hitch and the newlywed couple couldn’t have been happier. Even though they didn’t have much between them, they knew that their undying love would fill the gaps for the material things that they were missing. As they pledged in their vows to each other, they were in it for the long haul.

Heart forest - widower's tribute Winston Howes


Just as most vows go, Winston and Janet professed their love and promised each other that they would be together in sickness and health until death do them part. Little did they know then, but sadly that day would come sooner than they’d expected. Still, one member of the happy couple would prove in the most touching way that their love would last long after the other had departed from this world.

4.  A New Life

Winston and Janet kicked off their new life together by buying a small farm in a nearby village among the tranquil expanses of the lush England countryside. The town was once a booming city, housing a train stop between the busy metropolises of Bristol and Birmingham. Yet, sadly those days had come to an end when the station closed back in 1965.

Heart forest


However, the closing of the train station didn’t put a complete damper on the way of life in the sleepy little village. Quite the opposite, in fact, it was still as bustling and lively as ever, despite the lack of tourists and commuters the train brought in. And that would set the stage for what would eventually be the couple’s unbelievable legacy.

5. A Picturesque Life

Working on the farm gave the newlywed couple a new goal in life and kept them busy at the same time. While Winston tended to and cultivated the land that they now owned, Janet worked away tending to the house, keeping everything in order and making the space a real home.

heart forest

By all standards, Janet and Winston had everything that a happy couple could ask for. And if you had asked them yourself, they would have agreed that they were living the dream tending to the land and their love. All they needed was each other to survive. But sadly their dream would be cut short.

6. The One Big Regret

There was never a dull moment on the farm. Janet and Winston were very pleased with their newfound lives together. Even though they never grew tired of each other, there was always one big issue that lingered over them: parenthood. The loving couple didn’t have children.

heart forest

They had hoped, that one day they would be able to have a large family and that the farm would be passed down from generation to generation, making sure that the land and home were tended to. That, would sadly never happen, but what they didn’t know at the time was that their land would essentially be turned into an incredibly unique monument for their undying love.

7. Everything Turns Upside Down

Yet, despite this one unfulfilled desire in their lives, Janet and Winston trudged on, tending to the house and the land on which they were living. The two became closer and closer, completely devoted to each other, even though it was just the two of them together, they didn’t need anything more.

Heart forest


Winston and Janet cherished one another, as they cherished the life the had created together. That was until one fateful day when everything turned upside down. It all happened so suddenly that they didn’t even have time to process what was going on when it occurred. It was then that their quiet little lives would be rudely interrupted.

8. One Fateful Night

One unassuming night in 1995, Janet suddenly started to feel unwell. At first they overlooked all the warning signs, but then pretty soon it became apparent that something was very wrong. Not wanting to waste another moment, Winston rushed Janet to the hospital.

heart forest

Daily Mail

Once at the hospital, Janet saw various doctors. Undoubtedly try to stay positive, the couple was crushed when they received the diagnoses of heart failure. If caught quickly enough, the disease could possibly be managed, but tragically, Janet was told she was already in a late stage of the condition. The situation didn’t look good for Winston’s beloved Janet. Much to their despair, things went from bad to worse.

9. A Race Against Time

For Janet, the prognosis didn’t look good. Her heart was failing at a rapid rate, and at the time, technology wasn’t at the point to where her life could be saved. Fifty-year-old Janet succumbed to the disease and she passed away, far too young.

Heart forest

British Heart Foundation-Facebook-British Heart Foundation

The news broke Winston’s heart. Tore it to shreds. With the passing of his dear wife, Winston was now left alone on the farm that he had once shared with his dear Janet and he didn’t know how he would continue alone. Winston was now a broken man and left with a hole in his hear that could never be mended. Despite the pain, Winston would muster the strength to make a lasting gesture that would pull at the heart strings of all those who heard about it.

10. Mending A Broken Heart

Winston had never felt so alone in his life. With his wife now gone the only thing he knew how to do was to throw himself into his work at the farm. He tried to keep himself occupied, but sadly things just weren’t the same. Trying to do all the work alone was a constant reminder of his undesired solitude.

Heart forest


Tending to the farmland he had once shared with Janet didn’t help mend his broken heart but it did give him an idea. One that would memorialize Janet in an unforgettable way, and would help keep the memory of Janet alive for decades to come. It would take long hard hours of labor, blood, sweat and tears, but Winston was determined to make it a reality.

11. The Plan Begins

Winston, now alone in the world, drove himself to the local garden center for some supplies. And that’s when all the gears in his brain started to concoct a plan. All in all, it would actually take him decades to complete this labor of love and he would need lots of helping hands to make it happen, but Winston was determined.



It would be a plan that would forever reshape the landscape of his farm as well as publicly declare his undying love for his late wife for years, if not centuries to come. But it wouldn’t be a memorial to his wife that could be easily seen from a normal vantage point.

12. A Plan In Motion

The plan that Winston set into motion that day would take decades to complete and grow into the memorial that he had imagined, but Winston was patient. He felt that his dear wife would be looking down on the farm that they had shared together and would witness his demonstration, forever remembering the unyielding love that they had shared.

Heart forest


Not seeking fame or attention, Winston was purely driven by the desire to create something that represented his growing and lasting love for Janet. In his mind, he thought that his late wife would appreciate the immense effort that he had put into her memorial. And the moment that he returned from the garden center, he set out on the months-long endeavor.

13. A Secret Discovered

The plan that Winston had come up with was a rather simple one, but it would take a very long time for him to complete. And he would have to recruit the help of a few locals to make it all happen. Winston and Janet had been together for 33 years, but Winston would make sure that their love was immortalized.

Heart forest


The plan was so secretive that it would only be discovered by chance by a hot air balloon pilot by the name of Andy Collett in 2012. One day, while flying over Winston’s farm he’d notice the secret memorial. The public would finally find out about the widower’s touching tribute and the amazing feat that Winston had successfully undertaken in secret.

14. A Whole New World

On that fated day, Andy Collett, the hot air balloon pilot had been flying over the English countryside when he stumbled onto something spectacular. In his own words, it blew his mind to see such a sight. He couldn’t believe what he was looking at beneath him.

Heart forest


“I have my own balloon and am quite a regular flyer – but this was the most amazing sight I have ever seen from the sky,” Collett recalled. “It was perfectly hidden away from view – you would not know it was there.” From the ground, what he saw would have looked like an ordinary grove of trees, but from the sky, it was a spectacle to behold.

15.  All In The Trees

So, just what was Winton’s big plan to memorialize his wife and preserve her memory forever? Well, it was all in the trees. Winston had planted a small forest on his farmland that he had once shared with his wife Janet. But it was certainly no ordinary forest.

Heart forest


The forest itself was a representation, both figuratively and literally, of the love that Winston and Janet shared during their years together. It represented everything that their marriage was, is and will be. And it was all visible for everyone to see. But only if you knew how and where to look for it.

16. A Widower’s Tribute

Only a small handful of people, mostly those who had assisted Winston in creating the distinctive forest memorial even knew that the the creation existed. As it turned out, those who knew about the unique memorial to Winston’s wife were good at keeping a secret – a secret that’d last for 17 years.

Heart forest - widower's tribute

Google Maps

That secret would come out into the open when hot air balloon pilot Andy Collett happened upon the site. The pilot had only stumbled upon the location by chance, but Collett later told reporters that just by seeing the forest one could imagine the amazing love story that was behind the beautiful sight.

17. The Heart-Shaped Forest

So, just what was so special about the tree formation that Winston had so painstakingly planted by hand as a tribute to his wife? Well, it was an entire forest planted in the shape of a heart. The forest was beyond anyone’s imagination. Winston had planted the entire forest, with some help of course, to form a clearing in the middle of the foliage in the shape of a heart.

Heart forest - widower's tribute


The forest symbolized not only the love Winston had for his late wife but also the life that they shared together on that very same land. It was a representation of their love and Winston was sure that his wife was looking down on the farm from heaven smiling at the miraculous forest Winston had created. But that wasn’t the only tribute he’d created for his wife.

18.  A Meadow To Remember

On top of planting the heart-shaped forest, Winston also planted a meadow of daffodils, his late wife’s favorite flower in the clearing inside of the heart. He added a bench to an area in the clearing to sit during the spring months when the flowers are in full bloom.

Heart forest

Andrea Tummons

“I sometimes go down there, just to sit and think about things,” Winston said reminiscing of the days that he spent with his beloved wife. Today, the forest stands as a symbol of remembrance for her beautiful life.  And there it will remain for decades and decades. But along with the apparent visible symbolism of the tribute to Janet, was a a more hidden meaning that spoke to the depths of human emotion.

19. A Pointing Heart

The saplings Winston originally planted had taken decades to grow into the amazing forest of the likes pilot Andy Collett had discovered. And it even held a deeper meaning than just an expression of Winston and Janet’s love for one another. A meaning that only he and Janet previously knew about.

Heart forest - widower's tribute


Winston planted the forest so the bottom point of the heart would point in the direction of a village called Wotton Hill – where Janet had grown up. “It is a lovely and lasting tribute to Janet which will be here for years,” Winston later told the media. But how exactly had he managed to do it?

20. Coming Up With The Idea

The farm that Winston and Janet shared was more than 112 acres, a massive piece of land. And his plan to create the heart-shaped forest didn’t come to him immediately. It took months after Janet’s passing for Winston to come up with the idea, and much much longer for the imagined plan to become a reality.

Heart forest - widower's tribute

British Heart Foundation

Although it may appear simple from the sky, the project itself was anything but easy to engineer. It wasn’t that Winston had a small forest at hand to just cut down a clearing in the middle. He actually had to map out the design and plant the entire forest himself. And it took an incredible amount of saplings to make his vision materialize as desired.

21. Help From The Community

Astonishingly, the forest that Winston built in memorial to his late wife consisted of approximately 6,000 oak tree saplings. Saplings that he tended to daily to make sure that they grew into full-sized oak trees for his heart-shaped forest in the middle of the English countryside.

Heart forest - widower's tribute

And while Winston can take credit for the entire idea of the heart-shaped forest, he can’t take credit for all of its creation. For a project that size, Winston was forced to enlist the help of a number of local friends, those would come to be the very few people who even knew that the heart-shaped memorial existed.

22. All By Chance

“We planted large oak trees around the edge,” and “decided to put a hedge around it, too,” Winston later told reporters after the heart-shaped forest was spotted via the hot air balloonist. One of the aspects of the feature that Winston is particularly proud of, is that the monument isn’t an obvious tribute.

Heart forest - widower's tribute


It can’t be seen from the ground. The average person passing by would never even know that it there. But for Winston, in his heart, he knows that Janet can see the miraculous heart while she looks down upon her lost lover from heaven. But Winston’s story wouldn’t remain a little-known secret for long after pilot Andy Collett spotted the breathtaking feat of landscaping.

23. Spreading Like Wildfire

The story of Winston’s selfless act used to memorialize his wife took the Internet and media by storm after Collett’s observation in 2012. Photos of the aerial sight spread like wildfire across social media and garnered waves of reactions from onlookers.  And to Winston’s delight, the masses were overwhelmingly positive in their responses to his amazing act.

Heart forest - widower's tribute


“How lovely a tribute to your beloved wife,” one Facebook user wrote. “I have heart decor in my home and my partner’s resting place. He too passed away suddenly with heart disease, and I would love a place like this to visit.” But the impact of his story didn’t end there.

24.  An Inspiration

Winston’s story became viral and inspired many more people who had lost those near to them come forward to share the unique ways in which that they memorialized their own loved one’s memories. Each person had their own heartwarming story to tell and the process seemed very cathartic.

Heart forest - widower's tribute


Each and every one of the commenters commended Winston for his dedication. They also pointed out that the forest that he had planted was “a unique and beautiful tribute for Janet to look down on.” The power of what Winston had done for his wife resonated across the web and relayed a powerful message.

25. A Preserved Memory

Even though Janet may no longer be with us on this earth, her memory is forever engraved in the forest that her husband planted. In the years to come, Winston still visited the forest daily to spend time in the place that he felt most connected to his departed wife, reminiscing about the good times that the two shared together.

Heart forest - widower's tribute


And for Winston, it’s also a place where he finds quiet and solitude, a great place for him to go and think things over when he needs to. For him, the forest is a sacred place and he goes to it anytime that the pain of losing his dear Janet creeps back into his heart.

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Copyright © 2019 Novelty Magazines Ltd. All rights reserved