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The Next Generation: No Greater Tribute


In recognition of this anniversary and as a tribute to Mr.Sawdust, I thought I would share with you some of the things I so wish I could share with him. 

Anyone who ever sat under my dad’s teaching, watched him demonstrate a DeWalt, or spent any significant amount of time with him, will agree that he was a passionate man.  His enthusiasm was contagious and I believe he could sell just about anything! I think we miss this most about my Dad.  He was a great encourager —if he thought your idea was a good one.

One thing that my Dad did not ever give is false praise.  If he praised something you had created—a drawing, a poem, a carving, a song—you knew that you had done a great job.  If he did not think it was exceptional he would not lead you to believe it was.  Although his initial honesty may have been a let down, this was always an unspoken encouragement to go back and do it better.  I believe his praise and approval were very important to each one of us growing up. 

There was always a tremendous amount of competition among my six brothers, each one contending for Dad's praise.  This proved to be healthy in the long run, because they learned to do their very best, often surprising themselves with the results.  As they got older, they learned to work together, realizing their gifts complemented one another.

When I think back on my Dad’s professional life, I would say that his happiest, most fulfilling years, were those he spent operating and teaching at the Mr.Sawdust School of Professional Woodworking in Chester, NJ.  All of his sons were involved in some way—some teaching classes alongside him—others conducting seminars and DeWalt demonstrations with him across the country.  Even “Mrs. Sawdust” looks back on those years as very happy ones.  She attended most of the school sessions—serving coffee and doughnuts during break time—thoroughly enjoying the evenings.  I recall my dad saying to my brother Bruce during one of his final days in the hospital, “We’ve had a rare experience!” —and indeed they had.

Mr.Sawdust with one of the airplanes he built

That passion for woodworking lives on through five of Mr. Sawdust’s sons and now two of his grandsons.  How thrilled he would be if he knew!

 In 2003 the Kunkel Guitar, designed and created by Bruce Kunkel was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit Kunkel Guitars and take a look around…

 Marc Kunkel, oldest son of Mr. Sawdust, recently joined with his son Michael Kunkel in the formation of Kunkel & Son Woodworking, also located in Nashville, TN. Their work is exquisite...

Wally, fourth son of Mr. Sawdust, continues to act as vice president of 10-31 Industries in Columbia, NJ producing exceptional work.  His son Lafe, who is studying landscape architecture and business at the University of West Virginia, works with him during the summer months—also a woodworker.

 Carl and Jeff continue to work independently—equally as skilled and proficient in their work.

Youngest brother Chris has carved out (pun intended) his profession in the printing business. He has owned and operated a successful printing business, Prism Graphics in Oakland Park, Florida for several decades. He had much to do with production of the first edition of How to Master the Radial Arm Saw.

Mr.Sawdust would also be thrilled to know that his book, How to Master the Radial Arm Saw has been selling around the world for the past ten years and as I’ve told Paul Reiche, moderator of the De Walt Radial Arm Saw Forum, I’m sure he would have enjoyed being an active participant in the discussions.

 (…now they might have gotten a little hot and heavy at times!)

And I of course would love to tell my dad that the book I was writing before he died—the one he edited from his hospital bed—was published by Tyndale House in 2000, given the title, "One Family's Journey Through Alzheimer's." It is dedicated to him.

One of the great joys I have had growing up in the middle of a family of woodworkers, has been the privilege of watching first hand the building of such fine pieces, and also to witness the progress of each of my brothers in his field.  I have so often been stunned by the work they have produced—the pieces of furniture they have created through the years, the carvings, paintings.

I do have to remind them though on occasion that some of their very first techniques they learned from their sister.....

Wally- receiving his first woodworking instructions from his big sister, Mary.

Mr. Sawdust was a lover of family—excited about life, learning and creating; a passionate and unforgettable man. I have come to believe, through his example, that passion is the greatest teacher and the greatest gift we can pass on.

As I look outside this morning—the early spring sun—grass turning green after many long damp winter months-I recall one morning my dad drove me to school, one of my final days of high school. It was a morning just like this, and as he often did, he broke out in song with that beautiful tenor voice-

"Oh, what a beautiful morning....oh what a beautiful day..."

the song from the Broadway musical "Oklahoma." He sang the entire song...

"..the corn is as high as an elephants eye..."

and by the time I got out of the car, I knew it was going to be a great day! Despite many setbacks in his life and the life of our family—today would be a beautiful day; a day to enjoy, create and discover all its possibilities.

We miss you Mr.Sawdust—and you're right—even in a world far crazier than when you left it--today is a beautiful day!

~Mary B. Walsh

(Mamie-more Mamie musiings at Dear Babyboomer.com)

(Original music-"BelleMeade Plantation" by Marc A. Kunkel and can be purchased here)