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One Mother Fulfilled Her Son’s Last Wish By Building His Dream Home: “It’s What He Would Have Wanted!”

After losing her son, Danita Algar made his wish come true by going to carpentry school in his place

Ben Algar grew excited as he sifted through the portfolio of house plans his mom, Danita, had been collecting. She and Ben’s dad, Tony, had purchased property in Nova Scotia, Canada, so that after retirement, they could build their dream home.

“I’m going to build it for you, and a little cabin for myself,” Ben told her.

Since he was a little boy Ben had enjoyed building things. He’d gone from LEGO to high school shop class, and now he was enrolled in a carpentry program at Oshawa Ontario’s Durham College.

Ben came home every afternoon excited by what he’d learned. But before he had finished his first year, tragedy struck. Ben started having stomach problems. He couldn’t eat and his belly was distended. Tests revealed he had several soft tissue tumors pressing against his stomach.

When Ben had to drop out of school to undergo chemotherapy, his favorite instructor, Don Fisher, promised Danita they would hold Ben’s place.

But after three rounds of chemo, doctors somberly told the family, “There’s nothing more we can do.”

“I’ll be okay, but I worry what will happen to Mom,” Ben confided to Don during one of the instructor’s frequent visits.

“I’m still praying for a miracle and that I’ll see you front row in class next fall,” Don told Ben.

“I’m hoping for a miracle too,” Ben said. “But if it doesn’t come, I’ll send my mom in my place.”

Danita was startled by Ben’s words. Sure, she enjoyed taking on projects around the house, and had even once joked about enrolling in school with her son, but neither of them had taken it seriously. Or so she had thought.

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A promise kept

Sadly, Ben lost his battle with cancer on July 7, 2021. Danita was devastated. She had two other children—Grace, then 21, and Hayden, 19 — and had vowed to stay strong for them. But she still felt lost.

Then, a few days after Ben’s funeral, Don reached out and reminded her of Ben’s request. “We’d love to have you start in the fall.”
“I couldn’t possibly,” Danita protested, but the more she thought about it, she realized this was the one and only thing Ben had ever asked her to do.

So, that September, the long-time stay-at-home mom strapped on his old backpack and headed to class. “It’s the best way I know
to honor Ben’s memory,” she told Don as she took a seat up front.

Danita, here working on a class project, felt Ben’s spirit with her every day in school
Danita, here working on a class project, felt Ben’s spirit with her every day in schoolDanita Algar

Danita learned to estimate jobs, to use hand and power tools, draw and read blueprints. She also spent 70 hours working for a contractor. There were times Danita wanted to give up, when she had to leave class to cry in the bathroom. But she stuck with it.

“Our highest-ranked student!” the dean announced when, in June 2023, he handed Danita her diploma. Danita kissed the parchment. “I did it for Ben,” she said, fighting back tears.

Danita carried a photo of Ben at graduation
Danita carried a photo of Ben at graduationDanita Algar

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A precious gift

Danita threw a big graduation party, and the next morning, she got to work on her first renovation — in her own home. She began crowbarring the floor trim so she could replace it with higher-end wood. Next, she installed closet shelving, then set to work renovating both bathrooms.

Danita (center) with Ben’s siblings Hayden and Grace
Danita (center) with Ben’s siblings Hayden and Grace at her graduation partyDanita Algar

And last spring, she visited the Nova Scotia property and picked out a cozy spot with a beautiful river view, and, by the end of the summer, she and several family volunteers had built a small cabin she dubbed “Ben’s Bunkie,” fulfilling his dream of building on the property.

Danita built Ben’s dream cottage
Danita built Ben’s dream cottageDanita Algar

These days, Danita, now 50, uses her trade skills and knowledge helping customers at a local big-box hardware store. And when she’s ready to retire, she will build her dream house near Ben’s Bunkie.

“Somehow, Ben knew I’d need something to focus on, something to get me out of bed every morning with a purpose,” she says. “I went to school to honor Ben’s memory, but it was also his final gift to me — a new life and future.”

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