When folks meet me at a show or display, they often ask whether the craft was passed on to me by my family, and I answer no. I think that they yearn to hear that there is a generations old tradition for which I am the torch bearer. Well, in some ways it is true.
When my grandfather Louie Kaplan was a teenager, circa the 1930's, he was showing another student at the high school how to use the jointer (I imagine a gorgeous old Oliver or something), he managed to nip off the end of his pinkie finger. Of course, as a child, the story shifted to a warning of the dangers of nail biting, but as I took to woodworking, he seemed to take more and more pride in explaining the end of his woodworking career.
Louie went on to become a pillar of the St. Paul community on a variety of levels. While he barely stood 5 feet tall, his name could unlock doors, and drinks, all over the twin cities. I won't bore you with tales, but suffice it to say, as a child companion of his, I was as close to a prince as I'll ever be.
We buried Louie the other day, and if he hadn't outlived most of his peers, reaching 97, I swear that half of St. Paul would have shut down.
Witnessing the impact that one man could have on his community, and the joy and endearment that he brought, even to his nurses at the end of his life, was humbling.
I've received plenty of kind remarks about my postings here, but rest assured, there is much work to be done if I am going to fill his tiny shoes.