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From bacon and eggs to boxes and memories

Frank Ginsberg didn’t have to think twice about how he’d spend his time after retiring from 43 years of owning his own business. The 86-year-old Korean War veteran has always loved woodworking. 

Some of his first projects — wooden food plaques for kitchens — were purchased by local businesses. Those items included replicas of a lobster dinner, a plate of spaghetti, matzo ball soup, bagels, desserts, and even bacon and eggs.

The memory box project he works on for BJC Hospice may not be quite as whimsical, but it’s brought smiles, and a few tears, to families across St. Louis.

Ginsberg and his wife of 66 years, Evelyn, are all about families. Their own family includes two sons, a daughter, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. All 21 family members, plus pets, would come to the Ginsbergs’ house for Sunday dinner.

Many of Ginsberg’s woodworking projects are for his children and grandchildren. A huge dollhouse was made for his granddaughter with all the miniature furniture and even pictures of family members on the interior walls. “No detail was spared,” says Viki Diedrich, Frank Ginsberg’s daughter.

Ginsberg has also made rocking horses, hand prints, wall sculptures, shadow boxes, puzzles, kangaroo card holders, animal figurines and a wooden guitar that his grandson still plays.

All the Ginsbergs are creative and talented. Evelyn works alongside her husband in his large basement woodworking shop, sanding and putting finishing touches on many of the wooden creations.

Evelyn and Diedrich opened an art gallery and held shows of their creations for 25 years. They specialized in 3-D wall sculptures, carved wood pieces and large wall murals that Diedrich is well known for. Several of her wall sculptures hang in an area Ronald McDonald House. Evelyn also makes scarves and decorates sweatshirts, with proceeds donated to the Ronald McDonald House.

Ginsberg buys his wood from a friend, personally selecting each piece. Selections can be as unusual as zebrawood, which not only looks, but also smells, like a zebra. Ginsberg jokes that after working with it, he also smells like a zebra. 

He’s also done very large pieces, including Moses and the Ten Commandments, made from exotic wood, which hangs at the Shaare Emeth temple. He has also created several wooden replicas of Noah’s ark.

Ginsberg says his most challenging piece was a 5-foot-tall outdoor mermaid made for a client’s pool area. It had to be constructed of marine weather wood, and painted with a weather-resistant epoxy. 

One of his favorite projects was making wooden “shelf people” resembling the client’s children playing their chosen instrument. 

Diedrich works alongside her father painting and putting the finishing touches on his creations. 

Several years ago, an art gallery client asked Ginsberg to custom-design a coffee table box to hold remote controls and electronic devices. Hence, the birth of the first box. He created several more for the gallery. Later, another box was created for Evelyn’s 80 birthday. It was decorated and filled with loving letters from all her family.

Eileen Spinner, BJC Hospice bereavement specialist, asked Ginsberg, who had made wooden Christmas trees and wooden hearts for BJC Hospice families, to make a few memory boxes for Wings, the BJC pediatric supportive care program. Over-achiever that he is, says Ginsberg, he went right to work on 100 boxes.

Creating 100 boxes required cutting and assembling 700 individual pieces of a seven-layer-thick wood. But the work has been especially meaningful for the families that have been able to decorate and store memories of their loved ones inside the boxes.
“The memory box was a beautiful, generous gift. I will treasure my box forever,” says a mother who lost her son two years ago.

“A special thanks to Frank for his wood-working magic! I am a grief counselor with BJC Hospice, and I have been able to meet with many families and offer these treasures to them as a beautiful gift,” says Karla King, MA, LPC, BJC Hospice bereavement specialist. “Every family to whom I have given a tree or memory box has commented on the beautiful woodwork and the generosity of time, materials and skill of the person behind the scenes making these creations to share with many grateful families.”

Coming full circle, at a hospice Weavings retreat for grieving mothers, Diedrich’s best friend received a box to fill with memories of her late daughter. 

“We owe the Ginsberg family a great deal of gratitude and thanks for all they do for the community and BJC Hospice,” adds Spinner.

For more information or to volunteer for any BJC Hospice programs, call 314.953.1671 or email [email protected].

 

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