Retiree turns to crafts to fill time, make money

Don Moore, 82, has always worked with his hands. So when he retired and wanted extra money, he turned to what came naturally: woodworking.

Published February 16, 2005

LARGO - He has worked with his hands his entire life, so why would retirement prove any different?

"When I first retired, I didn't know what to do with myself, so I knew I had to find something that would occupy my mind and pass the time," said Don Moore, 82, a Largo retiree from New Jersey.

Moore started doing woodworking and crafts after his daughter had a wooden airplane that needed assembling and Moore discovered he enjoyed putting it together. The work has provided solace as well as sustenance in his later years.

"I've built alligators, motorcycles, dinosaurs, flowers, planes and dogs," he said. "Without this work, I probably wouldn't still be here. I don't know what I'd do all day."

The Largo resident works out of his home in a workshop he built after he moved with his wife in the late 1970s. The shop in the back of his house on Victory Avenue includes a band saw and many woodworking tools.

While his appearance belies his status as an octogenarian, he admits he doesn't do as much as he used to.

"My wife is very ill and I have a bad knee, so I have to do things as I can," he said.

Moore began working with wooden crafts in 1985 and has built a small business selling his wooden toys and crafts to individuals as well as toy stores and florists.

"I started doing this work after I retired to help support my wife and myself," he said. "Our Social Security checks weren't enough to keep us going, so I started working with wood. People expressed interest in buying them so it has worked out for me."

Moore designs the toys then shapes the wooden items on his band saw. Once the parts are cut, Moore sands them and makes sure the form is just right. He then paints each part before assembly.

His rocking motorcycles have been displayed at the Bank of America lobby off West Bay Drive in Largo and he sells toys such as sleighs and horses to Kids Imagination Station in Largo, other craft and toy stores and florists.

"I've got the equipment and paint to do all the work right here so it makes me happy. It's a lot of fun for me," he said.

Moore, born in 1922, grew up during the Depression and spent countless hours in his grandfather's carpentry shop. In those days, he said, nothing was prefabricated, so good craftsmanship was essential.

"I learned a lot from my grandfather that helped me out later in life," he said. "He taught me how to work with wood and gave me a love for it."

Moore attended the Citadel prior to World War II, but his studies were interrupted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

"My entire class volunteered the day after Pearl Harbor," he said. After he left the military in 1946, he worked for his father in New Jersey for two years. Moore built houses for a living and played professional football for the New Jersey Giants for two years, starting in 1946.

As Moore sits on his front porch, his hands gently move over a piece of wood he's crafting for one of his wooden horses. "I'm proud of my work. I like making things for decoration, but especially for kids who can play with these toys. They're pretty durable and they look nice around the house," Moore said.

"You know, we've had a wonderful life."