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The Valentine's Day Bandit died last year — but the tradition he started lives on

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

And now we have a follow-up to a story that we brought you yesterday. Residents of Portland, Maine, are used to waking up on Valentine's Day to see their city covered in red hearts printed on white paper. It's a tradition that has taken place around town every Valentine's Day for more than 45 years.

SIERRA FAHRMAN: It's really become a symbol of Portland and of Maine and our community. We - I mean, I've seen people with tattoos of it now. It's really special to Portland.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

That is Sierra Fahrman. The man who started the tradition was her father, Kevin Fahrman. He became known as the Valentine's Day Bandit.

SUMMERS: Kevin and his collaborators worked anonymously, hanging hearts throughout the late night and early morning before Valentine's Day every year.

FAHRMAN: The idea that there's someone anonymously doing these hearts over the years as a love letter to the city is really beautiful, and it's all about generosity and spreading kindness and love and positivity.

KELLY: Here's the twist - Kevin died last April. His family and friends decided to reveal his identity as the bandit. This is the first Valentine's Day in Portland since his death. So did the bandit strike again? Sierra says, as of this morning, the tradition lives on.

FAHRMAN: There were white paper with red hearts all over town. Pretty much every window in town, all the businesses had hearts on them.

SUMMERS: So who is the new bandit, you may be wondering. Sierra says the Valentine's Day Bandit isn't just one person. Her father didn't work alone, and the tradition evolved over the years to become a community-wide effort. One thing has stayed the same though - the bandit's anonymity.

FAHRMAN: The beauty of it is that it is anonymous, and it's not about recognition. If someone was saying, I'm spreading love around town, like, give me credit for it, that feeds into the commercialization that people hate about Valentine's Day. It shouldn't be about that. That's not what love is about. It's about uplifting people.

KELLY: That is Portland, Maine, resident Sierra Fahrman, remembering her father, Kevin Fahrman, also known as the Valentine's Day Bandit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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