Sam Beegle earned a living making cabinets for his entire adult life.
His career started in 1948 when Beegle learned how to make cabinets by working with relatives. Then, he opened a shop in the back of his house, "Sam Beegle Cabinet Shop."
For 44 years, the 84-year-old Martinsburg man sold his handcrafted wood pieces from his shop. Now that Beegle isn't getting paid, he seems to be enjoying the woodworking business more than ever.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Sam Beegle, a retired cabinetmaker, spends much of his time in the wood shop at Homewood at Martinsburg where Beegle is a resident. He and other men who live at the retirement center create a wide array of woodworking projects for the center and its residents.
Since moving into Homewood at Martinsburg, an independent living retirement community, Beegle has spends a few hours each day handcrafting cabinets, high chairs, tables, bird feeders, shelves, flower boxes and picture frames. He basically makes anything his neighbors or Homewood officials request, all without being paid.
"I just enjoy making stuff for people. I have been in business all my life, and I hated giving out bills. I always wished I didn't have to worry about the money," Beegle said.
The woodshop and the house attached were recently sold. It was an emotional experience but would have been tougher if Beegle didn't have the woodshop at Homewood.
His daughter, Julie Moore and her husband John had lived in the house for 15 years until they moved to another house.
When she was a child, Julie Moore remembers her father working long hours in the woodshop and in the community.
"He worked hard. He never did a lot of advertisement. He used to go out in the evenings and bid on jobs," Julie Moore said.
When Beegle moved into Homewood in 2006, the wood shop was being built courtesy of a donation from a resident whose husband had died.
A lot of residents had requested a wood shop, said Margaret Nuss, marketing director at Homewood. After it was built, it [also] became a draw for new residents, she said.
"It's a very popular feature," Nuss said.
One of those residents, Skip Earle, 68, moved to Homewood from New Jersey two years ago. Before retiring he made tools, and he knew he wanted to stay active.
When Earle moved to Homewood, he was attracted to the wood shop, and he and Beegle became fast friends.
"I don't know if I would have become friends with Sam if it wasn't for the wood shop," Earle said.
Although other men "tinker" in the wood shop, Beegle and Earle are the mainstays.
The shop is named "Buddy's Wood Shop" after the husband of the woman who donated money to build it.
She does not want to be identified, but Beegle and Earle agreed "Buddy's" is a fitting name.
"We're buddies in here," Beegle said.
They spend afternoons working on projects, and they are quite proud of their craftsmenship.
Inside Homewood's main building, Beegle's handiwork is everywhere, from the three-tiered shelving units outside each apartment and the cabinets in the dining room to the beautifully crafted chairs, lecterns and communion table in the chapel.
"Everything is professionally done," Nuss said. "They even built a dance floor when the resident association wanted a dance floor."
One of the more labor intensive projects involved building dozens of high chairs for family members of residents. It started as an idea from a resident who wanted a unique high chair that could be turned for three different uses: a rocking horse, a desk with a seat and a high chair.
"One of the residents brought a sample chair in and said 'Do you think we can make something like this for my great grandchild?'" Earle said.
With Earle and Beegle only charging for materials plus 10 percent, high chairs were a popular bargain.
Soon, Beegle and Earle had more orders than they could handle. They made 38 before they decided to stop that project for a while.
"We're supposed to be a hobby shop, not a production line," Earle said.
An exciting project on the horizon is the expansion of the woodshop, which will be partly funded by donations from Homewood residents and the 10 percent fees charged by Beegle or Earle for crafted pieces requested by residents, as well as a large donation from one resident.
Beegle and Earle will finish the inside of the expansion once it is built by Homewood contractors. The expansion will allow more room for machinery and bigger projects.
The woodshop is an investment in the residents at Homewood, Nuss said. "Obviously Sam is a master cabinet maker. He has shared his talents and knowledge with the rest of the fellas. They have all learned things from him. Skip has invested himself in it. He's having a great time. He's learned so much from Sam," Nuss said. "You feel good when you can help people. You feel good when you're useful and learning new things. They are both a great asset to the community."
Beegle and Earle enjoy giving back to Homewood and keeping busy. For Beegle, working at the woodshop is in some ways an outlet. His wife, Shirley, 82, has Parkinson's disease, and working at the woodshop allows Beegle to get his mind off his wife's health.
"Over here I need to think about what I'm doing and not everything at home," Beegle said. "It's a hobby that I love."
Julie Moore agreed the woodshop is a great release for her dad.
"I just think it's wonderful that Homewood has put this in, and Homewood has gotten so much out of it, more than they probably imagined," Julie Moore said. "I just think it's wonderful that he has an outlet and he can enjoy life at this stage."