SA's lawnmower man becomes a town hero after tornado pic goes viral

17 July 2017 - 07:40 By Suthentira Govender
MAGNUM: Theunis Wessels mows his lawn at his home in Alberta, Canada, as a tornado gathers in the background.
MAGNUM: Theunis Wessels mows his lawn at his home in Alberta, Canada, as a tornado gathers in the background.
Image: CECILIA WESSELS

The South African expat who shot to fame after a picture of him casually trimming his grass while a massive tornado loomed behind him has become a Canadian town hero.

The picture went viral and turned Theunis Wessels into a global sensation. It also earned him the nickname "lawnmower man". And now he is also the toast of his Canadian town.

Three Hills in Alberta honoured Wessels with his very own float in the town’s parade last weekend.

Wessels broke the Internet after his wife Cecilia snapped a picture of him mowing their backyard in shorts and a T-shirt while a huge tornado thundered towards them. The picture‚ which set social media platforms ablaze‚ turned the couple - who left South Africa seven years ago - into overnight celebrities.

Cecilia’s caption read: "My beast mowing the lawn with a breeze in his hair."

She told TimesLIVE in an interview: "We are both speechless. We cannot believe how this has taken off."

Cecilia said her husband had not been in immediate danger as the tornado was about 5km away. Wessels said he "had been keeping an eye on it".

The story was picked up by the likes of the BBC‚ CBS and USA Today.

Wessels was again in the spotlight when a Three Hills resident named "Mich" tweeted photos of him at the parade. The tweet was viewed about 1.8-million times.

The photos showed Wessels - dressed in his now-trademark shorts and T-shirt - aboard a float with his lawnmower and a replica tornado behind him. The side of the float was emblazoned with the words "home of the lawnmower man"‚ while the back of it read: "I’m keeping an eye on it."

Wessels told the National Post - a Canadian publication - that he had been approached by staff of the local historical museum to be part of the parade. He had staffers trailing his float‚ pushing their own lawnmowers.

"It was probably not the best float‚ but everybody talked about it and everybody waved‚ from young to old. It was great‚ man‚" Wessels told the newspaper.

Even town mayor Tim Shearlshaw was pleased about the lawnmower man’s presence‚ although he only found out later on.

It seems Wessels has put the town on the world map. Shearlshaw said he had received calls from all over the world about Wessels.

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