Carefully Crafted Lifestyles in a Retirement Community
Bob Powers, Ray McConnell, Perry Wilder, and Charlie Hough are all long-time hobbyists who create distinctive woodworking projects. Their creations run the gamut from delicate jewelry boxes to distinctive cabinetry. Each piece demonstrates the unique vision and singular talent of its creator. Their final products may bear few similarities, but there are many parallels in their lives and in how they approach the creative process.
All four men realize that success-in woodworking and in life-hinges on a competent plan. Planning for retirement meant finding a community where they could pursue their many passions. They all turned to Foulkeways at Gwynedd a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Pennsylvania.
Long-time residents of Montgomery County and the Gwynedd, PA area, these craftsmen all knew about Foulkeways and the lifestyle it offered. “We lived very close and watched it being built. It was the logical choice,” says McConnell. For Powers, there was no need to visit other communities either. Both Wilder and Hough state that they knew they were moving to Foulkeways long before it was time to plan for retirement.
Planning for retirement and adjusting to the active lifestyle at Foulkeways was easy. The four residents are all members of one or more of the community’s 108+ resident-run activity and volunteer groups. The social atmosphere of the community helps keep them all entertained as well. “There is so much intellectual stimulation and entertainment here, not to mention ample opportunity for social interaction,” says Hough.
The lifestyle at Foulkeways encourages residents to pursue their long-standing hobbies and helps to cultivate a seemingly endless array of new interests. The 109-acre campus provides plenty of space for indoor and outdoor activities. On-campus facilities include a fitness center, indoor pool, billiards room, metal shop, woodworking shops, green house, walking trails, tennis courts, and gardens.
Powers, McConnell, Wilder, and Hough take full advantage of the activities and amenities both on and off campus and can be found pursuing their many passions, including: biking; swimming; kayaking; gardening; volunteering; traveling; the theatre; and, of course, woodworking.
Powers notes, “I like designing things and putting them together. I like being the idea man.” His ideas have generated such varied creations as a playhouse for his grandchildren and several Rube Goldbergs, complex devises designed to perform a simple task (such as move a marble from one point to another). He laughs as he says, “They are impractical looking things, but they are so fascinating. Everyone likes watching them.”
“Two clocks are rarely alike,” says McConnell. While repairing a clock, he recalls thinking that he could easily build one. He now frequently creates one-of-a-kind wall clocks, which he donates to charities for auction. For McConnell, the process of creating a piece starts with a clear plan. He says, “Coming up with the concept is the most challenging part of woodworking-and therefore the most rewarding.”
“I really like the short-term satisfaction of completing a project,” says Wilder, who recently finished four jewelry boxes for his granddaughters. He makes his projects achievable by planning ahead with rough sketches, and if he is not sure how to use a piece of wood, he saves it. “I have a beautiful, large piece of cherry that I haven’t dared cut into yet. I have to decide exactly what I want to create before I cut,” he says.
Hough creates fine cabinetry and small furniture. “Patience and knowing that you can always start over” are the most important lessons for any woodworker, he says. A former architect, he notes that the creation of a useful piece of furniture is closely analogous to the creation of a successful building. “You have to know the purpose of the piece and who it will serve,” says Hough. He sketches every joint before beginning a woodworking project and finds inspiration in studying pieces designed before the advent of power tools. He says, “I look at the dove tails and all the handiwork. That is what I strive for.” Achieving that goal requires the perfection of two time-honored traits: patience and foresight.
For Bob Powers, Ray McConnell, Perry Wilder, and Charlie Hough, careful planning before they begin a woodworking project means more beautiful finished products and fewer contributions to the scrap bin. Likewise, their informed retirement decisions have helped them craft a lifestyle that is free of stress and ripe with potential. For each of these gentlemen, life at Foulkeways means more time to pursue new interests and focus on their favorite hobbies.
Retirement life has given these hobbyists more time to do it all. Their carefully crafted lifestyles are just as varied, detailed, and impressive as the pieces they create in the wood shop, proving what each man has known for years: if you plan for every turn, there is always the potential for perfection.