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updated: 11/21/2014 5:59 PM

Sedgebrook Woodworker Brings New Life to Old Finds

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Don Hollenbeck is disturbed by "move-in-ready" home makeover TV shows. "I can't understand how people can just come into a place with things that someone else has picked out and set up for them," said the woodworker and resident of Sedgebrook, a senior living community in Lincolnshire. "I think it's sad when people don't have objects around them that tell their personal story." For Don, whose apartment "looks like something out of the 19th century," nearly everything in his midst has his mark on it. From the columns of a four-poster bed he refurbished and made into columns for three doorways, to the antique stained glass panels hanging in his windowsill (for which he crafted four frames), to the dressing table he restored and uses as a desk, and the antique wardrobe he is currently re-crafting to new splendor, Don's furnishings are works of art that he has either rescued, refurbished, reconfigured, or remade--or all of the above.

"It's fun to see if I can figure out how something was made and how I can restore it. I like to know things just for the sake of knowing," said the former Deerfield High School English teacher and textbook author, embroidering the descriptions of his many projects with a masterful knowledge of woodworking and a fascination for "gothic geometry" and the old world ways of quality craftsmanship. "I almost never buy things that I can bring in and sit down." Indeed, Don has traveled far and wide to auctions, flea markets, lumber mills, antique shops, and otherwise "strange" places to track down items for his projects. He's been on a quest for wormy butternut, Brazilian walnut, and Iowa walnut wood. He's made clean and calming window coverings from formerly wasp-infested shutters.

Don's interest in woodworking began in the 1960s, when his grandfather, a farmer-turned-cabinet maker, introduced him to the craft. His passion remains well-honed, as Sedgebrook houses a three-room wood shop, where Don spends several hours a week. Working alongside other residents skilled in woodworking, he likes to make the machines (some of which he donated from his home wood shop) "sing." "We have a machine that creates tongues and grooves; it's fun to do that," said Don, adding that only those who are trained in the use of such machines are allowed to operate them. Don and other Sedgebrook artists' wood and restored brass works are displayed in the community's art room, near the Monarch Café, where people pass by and admire them daily. Items that are sold help fund supplies for the wood shop and maintenance of the machines.

A resident of Sedgebrook since 2006, Don calls the community "first-rate." "I love it here. Some of our friends lived here before we moved in…and I love the wood shop! In there, I can control the outcome," said the man who for many years was the caregiver of his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Don's hobby is as rewarding for him psychologically as it is physically. "You don't have to go around being glum. You make your own sunshine if the sun doesn't seem to come up in the morning."

Sedgebrook is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) offering a diverse lifestyle, maintenance-free living and outstanding amenities. Five-star rated Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation is located on the 92-acre Sedgebrook campus in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Sedgebrook is owned by Senior Care Development LLC and managed by Life Care Services LLC. For additional information visit or call 847-901-3319.