Woodworking is certainly its own unique art form — blending skill, an eye for detail, and a passion for perfection — resulting in some of the most remarkable pieces of custom art and furniture out there. At Plymouth Harbor, we’re lucky to have so many talented woodworkers among us.

At any one time, there is no telling how many projects are going on down in the Wellness Center Wood Shop. Many would consider this passion as a hobby, although for some, it’s safe to say it has turned into a bit of a “second career.” Plymouth Harbor in particular has benefited countless times from the generosity of these skilled craftsmen who reside right under our roof. As an example, in 2015, residents Graham “Barky” Barkhuff, Tom Elliott, and Gene Heide helped dramatically improve the entrance to MacNeil Chapel with the chapel doors they constructed to hold new stained glass panels the Barkhuffs donated, along with a new storage cabinet for Chapel supplies.

Most recently, Plymouth Harbor enlisted Dr. Heide’s help in building custom service cabinets for our Dining Services department (pictured above). He agreed and set to work outlining the project as requested, ensuring each detail complemented the Mayflower Restaurant in both appearance and design.

Eventually, the project became a resident-staff collaboration as members of our Maintenance Department (Hugh Kelly and painter Jim Oates)stepped up to help Dr. Heide install the final pieces and complete the finishing touches on each cabinet. Today, you may (or may not) notice these four new cabinets throughout the restaurant, located by the pillars and blending in perfectly. These new additions aid our servers by providing storage and a place to set their trays, without taking away from the overall dining ambiance.

With these craftsmen showing such dedication to their hobby, some may wonder how the interest was sparked. For Dr. Heide, it began when he was only six years old. His father had recently acquired a pearl-handle pocket knife, which Dr. Heide and his brother both wanted. His father, always pushing education, said he would give it to the person who came home with the best grades that semester. Naturally, Dr. Heide, a first-grader, won against his sixth-grade brother. “I won easily,” he laughs. “And I’ve carried a pocket knife ever since.”

Over the years, Dr. Heide has perfected his skills. From carving play swords and guns out of the sugar pine crates oranges used to come in to working with a cabinet maker for a summer, he’s had his fair share of projects — including cabinets, desks, bookshelves, carvings, and mending items for fellow residents. Today, Dr. Heide certainly stays busy, whether it is working on an entirely new project or improving pieces of furniture found in his home.

“I like to make things better than they were before,” he says. “I’ve always liked that notion: ‘leave a place better than you found it.’” There is no question: after a piece of wood finds its way into the Plymouth Harbor Wood Shop, it will come out looking better than ever.

As a show of appreciation, many who have benefited from the Wood Shop’s talent have made donations to the fund, which is held by The Plymouth Harbor Foundation. These funds are used to purchase supplies and tools for the Wood Shop.