North Routt man carves a path through Parkinson’s
Steamboat Pilot & Today
NORTH ROUTT — Dennis Lodwick reaches up for his air compressor, turns it on himself and blasts a fountain of sawdust off his clothing. The master carpenter has just finished another day in his North Routt-based workshop and heads a few feet across the driveway to the home he shares with wife, Jeanne.
“I’ll be in trouble if I track in a mess,” he said with his signature wry smile.
For more than 10 years, Lodwick has been building everything from picnic tables and chairs to beer paddles and wine boxes. He has a loyal following of customers who value his craftsmanship and inventive use of beetle-kill wood.
“I’ve been called an artist and a sculptor, but really, I just like working with wood,” he said.
His creative process begins with a walk in his forested surroundings, where he and Jeanne scout for potential beetle-kill lumber. Once he spies a tree, they use a U.S. Forest Service firewood permit to harvest it, and their son Kris’ backhoe to haul it home.
“It’s pretty much a family affair,” Lodwick said.
Three of the couple’s four sons live in the area, along with grandchildren, who are happy to tinker in Grandpa’s workshop, under his watchful eye.
Woodworking has not only given Lodwick a supplementary income since he retired from construction, but it is a source of therapy. More than a decade ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. When his hands are busy, he doesn’t suffer the tremors, which are characteristic of the illness.
Almost four years ago, Lodwick underwent deep brain stimulation, a surgical procedure to alleviate symptoms, in Denver. An electrode, implanted within the brain, receives messages from a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin in the chest. Lodwick has the capability to control the intensity of the currents, depending on how he feels.
“It’s not a cure, but it keeps things at bay,” he said.
Parkinson’s has not stopped his creative mind.
“Some see a tree, I might see a potential table. The more knots and imperfections the better,” he said, laughing.
Lumber of all shapes and sizes fills his studio where it is cured before he and Jeanne sand it.
“Like I said, it’s a family affair.”
Once a year, Lodwick works with first-grade students at the North Routt Charter School to build trains out of wood.
“It started through my grandchildren, and we’ve kept it going,” he said.
Community means a lot to Lodwick, whose parents owned the Clark Store in the 1950s.
Evidence of his following is apparent all around Routt County, where his signature blue-hued pieces can be seen in yards, homes and commercial entities including the Haymaker Golf Course.
“The beetle epidemic was really a disaster,” he said about the infestation that attacked lodge pole pine. “I’m trying to do something positive, and in a way, recycle Mother Nature.”
For Lodwick’s family, the most positive things about what he does are the joy he gets from doing it and the respite he receives from a disease he refuses to let stop him.
Visit http://www.uniquepicnictables.com for more information about Lodwick’s creations.
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