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Langley men are pretty crafty when it comes to woodworking

Fred Gerlinger and Don Trost are both in their 90s and continue to enjoy making wood creations
Avalon Gardens residents Don Trost and Fred Gerlinger do woodworking and had their items for sale at the seniors complex Christmas fair in November. (Tanmay Ahluwalia/Langley Advance Times)

Wood back-scratchers with a small hand on the end proved to be popular with buyers who stopped by the table of Don Trost and Fred Gerlinger at the Avalon Gardens craft fair in November.

But by the end of the sale, the two residents had sold lots of their original wood creations.

“We did all right,” said Trost, 96. “We made a few hundred bucks anyway, and and we donate part of that into our entertainment fund.”

When Trost arrived at Avalon Gardens five years ago, he had downsized from a Murrayville condo and before that, had lived many years in a home in Brookswood. The downsizing included his shop where he had done his woodworking.

He was pleased to find that some of the Avalon residents before him – including Gerlinger – had a small area set up for woodwork.

Sure, it was rudimentary, a slab of plywood on scaffolding, but it gave several residents the opportunity to keep their minds and hands busy doing something they enjoyed.

Trost, who had spent his working life at the Saskatchewan Wheat Board elevators in Thunder Bay, Ont., was carrying on skills he learned at a young age.

“My father used to do it when we were children,” he explained.

Gerlinger, 95, was one of the original handful of men who started the wood shop. A longtime member of the Kelowna fire service, he had moved to the Coast to be near family and moved to Avalon Gardens after the passing of his wife in 2010. The original group pitched in $20 each for supplies. Gerlinger is the last of the founders.

Over time the shop has been improved and more features added – doors, security, and equipment. Trost was able to get his wood lathe back from a relative to add to the amenities.

Through the years, the two men have made all sorts of decor items, puzzles, cradles, rocking horses, models of classic cars, and practical things, such as a combination table and tray for beside a person’s easy chair.

Lots of their creations have gone to family and lots are under Christmas trees for 2022.

“It makes me happy thinking that I can help someone else,” Trost said.

He was asked to refurbish a rocking horse he made for a grandchild, so she could give it to her grandchild. He knows some of his wood creations are in Florida and England, and all across the country. One of his favourite items to create are wood models of cars – from the 1926 to 1932 era, when the vehicles were more square and therefore easier to fashion.

“I’ve made over 100 that I’ve given away, just in the cars,” he said.

They include a surprise for the recipient.

“We put a music box under the hood,” Trost said.

From what the Avalon Gardens woodworkers sell, some of the proceeds are kept to cover the cost of supplies, but they have donated to their seniors complex, as well as to causes such as Langley Memorial Hospital, and the food bank.

The payoff for the two men is having something to do that they enjoy – particularly during the pandemic – and moreover it’s something that brings pleasure to others.

“I don’t know what I would have been doing if I didn’t have something. I had a hobby to go to,” Gerlinger said.

He took Sunday after the craft sale to rest and watch the Grey Cup, but was already looking to the future, thinking about what to fashion out of wood next.

“Now we’re already getting another kick at it for next year,” he said.


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• READ MORE: Langley seniors in long-term care and families will have more say


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Woodworkers Don Trost and Fred Gerlinger enjoy making vintage auto models. (Avalon Gardens/Special to Black Press Media)
Don Trost and Fred Gerlinger enjoy making vintage autos out of wood. (Avalon Gardens/Special to Black Press Media)
Don Trost and Fred Gerlinger enjoy making vintage autos out of wood. (Avalon Gardens/Special to Black Press Media)

Heather Colpitts

About the Author: Heather Colpitts

Since starting in the news industry in 1992, my passion for sharing stories has taken me around Western Canada.
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