Even near the end of her life, Mrs. Happy Face never stopped smiling

Anyone who was lucky enough to walk into the Happy Face Museum in Dartmouth, N.S., knows what greeted them at the top of the stairs: hundreds of yellow faces, smiling from every corner of the room.

For almost 20 years, Debbie Power opened part of her home on Wentworth Street, full of mugs, pins, necklaces, figurines, several clocks, a set of hanging door beads and hundreds of other objects — anything with a cheerful face on it. It brought smiles to everyone who came through her doors.

But now the Happy Face Museum has closed. Power, 69, died on Oct. 28 of liver and kidney failure. The collection was left to her only child, Tammy Hubley.

Hubley started packing up all of the happy faces before her mother died and bringing them to her home in Pleasantville, N.S.. She is now is left trying to figure out what to do with them all.

“I enjoyed it, but this was my mother’s joy. So what do you do?” Hubley said, standing in the now empty space at her mother’s home.

The Happy Face Museum was filled with hundreds and hundreds of bright yellow smiley faces. (Submitted by Tammy Hubley)

Hubley said she thought about opening up another museum, but that would mean renting a space or building one — something she said isn’t feasible for her to do.

“I really wish there was somebody that just loved happy faces as much, because I’d just say, ‘You know what, I’ve got a great big collection here.’ Because there’s oodles of it.”

‘She just wanted to make people happy’

Power opened the museum in 2000. In the 45 years she lived in Dartmouth, she was known around the community for her giant happy face suit, carrying handfuls of smiling lollipops and her own infectious smile.

“She just wanted to make people happy,” Hubley said.

Power became known as Mrs. Happy Face.

Tammy Hubley said her mom found the good in everybody. (Submitted by Tammy Hubley)

Hubley said when her mom started the collection, she began seeing happy faces everywhere she looked. One day, she said her mom looked down and near her toe saw a rock that looked like it had a happy face on it.

“It’s at home on my windowsill. You can kind of see the happy face there, but everything she saw was a happy face. She saw the good in everybody,” Hubley said.

If she found something she liked that didn’t have a happy face, Hubley said her mom would paint one on — including the giant buoy in her front yard, benches in her yard and pot lids.

Debbie Power holding the rock she found by her feet with a happy face. Her daughter now has it on the windowsill of her home. (Haydn Watters)

Hubley said at first, she wasn’t sure what to think about the museum.

“I thought it was weird. Like, what do you mean? Who ever heard tell of something like that? Mom would say, ‘Well Superman has a home, Mickey Mouse has a home, all this. But now the happy face has a home,'” Hubley said.

Eventually, Hubley grew to appreciate the museum.

“I was very proud to show it off to people.”

Packing up memories

Power had other collectable items in the space too: dolls, vintage toys and anything else she enjoyed.

“It was really just about someone coming up and saying, ‘I remember this as a kid, I remember this, I can’t believe you’ve got that,'” Hubley said.

“Even when I was packing stuff up it was like going through her diary, even my own, because I was there.”

Tammy Hubley is looking for a new home for her mother’s collection of happy faces. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Hubley said her mother was adopted as a child. When Power was in her 30s, she reconnected with her birth mother and learned her birth name was Jacklyn Joy.

“It just suited her,” Hubley said. “She found good in everybody.”

Even near the end of her life, Hubley said her mother never stopped smiling. After she started palliative care, Power wanted to go to New Brunswick to see her mother that raised her.

“It took us an hour to get her in the car. Even my husband said, ‘Debbie, this is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen you do.’ I mean she really wasn’t well and she couldn’t walk. And she just looked at him with a great big smile,” Hubley said.

Debbie Power at the Happy Face Museum in 2014. (The Smile Face Museum)

Hubley said even when she was really ill, her mother would always say, “I’m good, I’m happy and I feel fine.”

“It’s a hard thing to explain about her but she was truly happy inside,” Hubley said. “She was grateful for everything. She taught me a lot.”

Debbie Power, left, with her grandson Bronson Martten-LeBlanc and her daughter, Tammy Hubley. (Tammy Hubley)

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