After Bass Points Apartment Grounds Manager Steven Thibeault lost his 21-year-standing job, Nahant residents raised more than $3,610 to help Thibeault continue living in town with his famous feathered friend Cheerio.
In 2017, Thibeault found an American black duckling struggling to escape the pool at Bass Point. After rescuing the duckling, Thibeault brought it home intending to re-unite it with its mother, but after a night of handling Cheerio, the duck imprinted on him. He said he found the duck’s mother shortly after, but Cheerio was uninterested in reuniting.
“I tried for three days (to connect Cheerio with his mother). I found her every single day and I tried to throw him to her every single day and he was like ‘No, no, no, you’re my dude. I’m not going anywhere,’ ” Thibeault said.
In a matter of days, the man-duck duo became inseparable. Thibeault took Cheerio to work each day, letting the duck swim in the pool, or on the shores surrounding the peninsula at Bass Point. When it was time to leave, Thibeault would simply whistle, and Cheerio would fly into his car.
It didn’t take long for Cheerio to waddle his way into the spotlight. In 2018, the duck spent a day as a Nahant Police officer under the care of officer Timothy Furlong, now the department’s chief. In 2020, Cheerio became the first-ever non-human to be in-duck-ted as a Nahant Historical Society lifetime member. Later that year, Essex Media Group named Cheerio as its Nahant Person of the Year.
One day, Thibeault brought Cheerio to his parents’ house in Malden, and the duck flew away through an open door. Thibeault said he spent hours searching for the Cheerio, but returned to Nahant heartbroken after having lost his waterfowl companion.
“I went to Malden a couple times and went to a bunch of reservoirs. I searched high and low but I couldn’t find him. The next day I go to work, I’m depressed and crying,” Thibeault said.
Later that day, Thibeault received a phone call from a Bass Point tenant informing him that he saw Cheerio at Long Beach. When Thibeault arrived and saw a duck socializing with people on a crowded beach, he knew instantly that it was his duck.
“The ranger there asked ‘Is he your duck?’ and I was like, ‘yeah.’ He said ‘We just called some biologists because we wanted to figure out why this duck is so friendly,’ ” Tibeault said. “Imagine having a baby that can fly after four months. Your baby can just take off out of its crib and go ‘I’m out of here’ and fly. That’s what it’s like being a duck dad.”
This year, Thibeault was fired from his job at Bass Point after new owners came in. He said the rug was pulled out from under him, and while he said he was concerned for himself and his wife, his main priority was to keep Cheerio in Nahant — the only home the duck has ever known.
“People get fired every day, but not everyone has a duck… If I just had to worry about myself, and of course, my wife, that’s easy enough. But I worry about him. What’s the next job going to be? Am I gonna be like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I bring my famous duck with me a couple of days a week?’ ” Thibeault said. “For the last six and a half years, that’s been his place.”
When Thibeault started a GoFundMe account hoping to raise enough money to pay his bills and stay in Nahant for Cheerio, the community came through for him and the duck. 87 donors collectively contributed $3,610 to help Thibeault get back on his feet.
“This will be a big change for myself and Cheerio and my first priority is to make sure I can stay in Nahant for Cheerio while we figure out what this new chapter of our life will bring. We need to stay in our apartment, the only home he knows except for my old work place. This is very important to me so he has access to the beautiful beaches and the ocean he loves so much,” Thibeault wrote in his GoFundMe.
Thibeault said he was grateful for all the support that’s come his way. Between the GoFundMe, and some of his savings from 21 years at Bass Point, he said he can continue to stay in Nahant while he searches for work.
In the meantime, Cheerio still enjoys regular trips to the beach, rides on the front console of Thibeault’s car, and making new friends around town.
“Everybody loves him. Especially in Nahant, there’s not many people that don’t know about Cheerio,” Thibeault said. “At a red light, when you have a duck sitting in between the passenger seat and the driver’s seat and someone looks over at you, they see a duck just sitting there. The look on their faces is so priceless … Every time I leave the house with him, he starts a conversation. I just love him and I wouldn’t change a thing.”