For the past year, O.J. Freeman has opened his workshop to the members of the Waxahachie Senior Center. And for some, it is the most meaningful hobby they’ve encountered over the last eight decades.
The relationship between Freeman and the senior center is unique. He recently created planters for the STEM garden and opened his shop to the senior community.
“There’s a lot of need for the seniors up there, and I really don’t feel my age so there are a lot of people at the center who can benefit from it,” Freeman advocated.
Freeman, 79, encouraged seniors to make something of their later years, as he did just that and became a member of the Waxahachie Senior Center.
The center is significant to him because “I’m retired, and I’ve found my home away from home. When I started off, they had a woodworking class and thought that’s right up my alley.”
The class was extremely limited on what carpentry skills Freeman could exercise and decided after eight months of membership he would open his shop up to the other seniors.
About 10 people come to some workshops, but he has a solid handful of regulars that create various types of projects for loved ones and themselves.
Freeman and his daughter, Connie Miller, instruct workshops on Mondays at 9 a.m. and Wednesdays at 2 p.m. for the seniors. Folks who are interested can work in the shop for a small fee of $2. He will sell wood or people can bring their own.
For those who are timid to try the trade Freeman relayed it’s easy to catch onto, and some beginners are impressive with their skills. The retired carpenter has 50 years under his tool belt, and the trains and trucks he builds have proven to be tricky. When the final product turns out the way he envisions it, it is the most satisfying feeling.
“You’d be surprised at how much stuff I’ve thrown away,” he joked.
Freeman gave a quick tour or his home and displayed his beautifully homemade cabinets and furnishings. The living room mantel showcased a 1928 Chevy and his first train that took 300 hours to devise.
“It’s something I really enjoy and is very relaxing to do," Freeman disclosed. "When I have problems, I go out there in that shop and lose it all."
His daughter moved onto the property five years ago and has practiced carpentry ever since.
Miller expressed how her father is not much of the emotional type, so time spent together in the shop means everything to her.
“It gives me something to do to be with him, and plus I fell in love with it,” Miller said.
At first, Miller thought carpentry was nothing but a dust storm in the dead heat of summer and the bitter chill of winter.
“I’ve been addicted to those boxes you’ve seen out there the last two years," she joked.
Her father taught her every bit of the trade and has passed the knowledge on to the senior citizens of Waxahachie. The love and appreciation for her father reflect in her work. She is now helping him rebuild her home that caught fire in November. The two had constructed it by hand the first time.
“He just lights up when he shows people the shop and the things he creates," Miller shared with watery eyes.
Another regular in the shop is Jerry Arsenault. He has worked in the shop for a year now and has sharpened his skills along the way. The retired plumber from California never dabbled into the hobby but was always fascinated by it.
“I love woodwork. When I heard about this shop, I knew I had to go,” Arsenault shared while screwing on the legs of a game table.
He created the table for his son-in-law who is a firefighter. The fire station is housed in Cloverleaf, near Houston, and was severely damaged from Hurricane Harvey. The firefighters lost everything. Now the game table will help the first responders pass the time at the station.
Predominately all of the works he created were gifted to his family. He designed jewelry boxes for his daughter and granddaughter, and the signature covered wagon paper towel holder, which Arsenault gave to his grandson.
“This is the best thing I’ve done in my life, really,” Arsenault expressed. "When you get a certain age you are limited, and this keeps me busy and something to do.”
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450