Loni Trude as Lollipop the Clown

Loni Trude, known as Lollipop the Clown, draws features on a balloon frog as Laena Weekes, 7, of Caldwell, looks on inside the dining area of Pizza Hut on Tuesday evening in Caldwell. For more than three years Trude has been sharing her talents as a balloon artists with the children of Caldwell and sharing photos of their smiling in a collection of books that she has published.

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CANYON COUNTY — Loni Trude was searching for answers after the unexpected death of her husband, Bob, and she found some in the children of Caldwell, whose faces she’s captured in four volumes of a book.

It started when the mother of four grown children used a talent for making balloon animals — she learned it working birthday parties at McDonald’s in the 1970s and 80s and later from Gem Jesters — to create her persona “Lollipop the Balloon Artist.”

Trude, as “Lollipop,” was hired to make balloon creations for the kids of restaurant customers. After a while she started snapping photographs of the children with their balloons.

“I began to notice the expressions on the kids’ faces were just wonderful,” said Trude, who currently works Tuesday evenings at Pizza Hut in Caldwell. “And so I just continued to take pictures.”

Trude compiled the photos into a book titled “The Crown Jewels of Caldwell.” The title has its roots in Rosenborg Castle in Denmark, where the Crown Jewels of the Danish monarchy are on display. Trude visited the castle on a trip to Copenhagen. She says her photos that hang along the ceiling border at Pizza Hut remind her of the display.

One “Crown Jewels” book led to another. She’s already self published volume four and is working on number five. Her goal: to release two a year until she’s completed 10.   

Trude’s projects grew out of a class for recently divorced and widowed people she attended after her husband Bob Trude’s death of a heart attack in 2005. She describes their five-year marriage as a “wonderful, wonderful relationship” with the love of her life. But it came after a 27-year marriage to an alcoholic. Despite the difficulty of that marriage, Trude says she always encouraged her children to live their dreams, as she’s doing now. She kept a map on the wall and they would imagine themselves traveling the world.

“It was really, really important that the children think outside the home, outside the four walls,” Trude explains, noting with pride that her two daughters and two sons have settled throughout the U.S.

Trude hopes this year she’ll be able to convince service clubs to buy her books and put them in hospital waiting rooms and crisis centers. And she wants to tell her story to inspire others.

“Mainly (I want) to encourage them to encourage their children to think outside their circumstances,” she says. “If children have a dream, boy, catch that and breathe life into it.”

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