|Furniture, Canes are Labor of Love for Lacerte|
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Peter Lacerte spends most of his free time hand-crafting duplicates of early American furnishings.
This and canes, especially canes.
A retired welder, Mr. Lacerte started in the trades when people learned by serving as apprentices. He became a bricklayer and mason, but switched to welding, becoming certified, and a master of the trade. Assignments have taken him to ocean depths and sky-high labors. He worked for specialists in the welding field, a company known for coast-to-coast labors.
Mr. Lacerte has devoted his craft talents to his family, close friends and NEADS, dogs for deaf and disabled Americans, pretty much in that order. He was a volunteer firefighter with the Webster Fire Department for 14 years.
Mr. Lacerte and his wife, the former Shirley Nowicki, raised five children, the late Peter Lacerte Jr., who worked as a welder in upper New York state; Kerrilyn Lacerte, currently battling Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome; and Sharleen, Kelley, and Scott Lacerte. Peter Jr. and Scott followed their father’s pursuits, graduating from Bay Path Vocational High School and becoming certified welders.
Mr. and Mrs. Lacerte, longtime Webster residents now living in over-55 housing, also in town, are particularly devoted to their family, and most lately with the challenges daughter Kerrilyn is facing. A service dog trained by inmates at Concord State Prison at a NEADS investment of about $20,000 helps her with her personal needs around the clock.
Holding this thought for a moment, Mr. Lacerte says his avocation — building furniture for the homes of immediate family — started decades ago, increasing by generations, now with 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Mostly self-taught, he builds early American-style tables, benches, chairs and other items. “They’re as authentic as I can make them,” he says, “reminiscent of the 1700s.” As a lifelong tradesman, Mr. Lacerte has a well-furnished workshop in the basement of his home.
Quality construction requires top-grade, expensive materials and quality finishing products, says Mr. Lacerte. “Time is another thing.
“The way things are, I couldn’t make money if I was charging only $10 an hour.”
He’s helped extended family and a few close friends, but refuses to sell his time. “Buy the material for me,” he says. His talents are for family, shared infrequently with others, because family is a life priority. “There isn’t a screw or a nail in any of the things that I make.” It’s dovetails, dowels, and care.
His production has built over the years to include adaptations of items such as corner tables, some with modifications to accommodate modern products, like an entertainment center. A hall table, designed to safely space candles, is a popular item, even though Peter shakes his head in wonder.
A lock-top desk is a recent accomplishment. “Kerrilynn needed one, so I made it for her,” says Mr. Lacerte. She’s an advocate and Rhode Island captain for the EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) Network CARES.
Hand-crafted canes have become Mr. Lacerte’s private contribution to the cost of training working dogs for special people. Walking about his North Webster neighborhood, Mr. Lacerte noticed a source of raw materials. He followed up with this and initially produced canes for disabled acquaintance, always without charge. Kerrilynn subsequently routed his work through NEADS, and “they’ve been selling them,” says Mr. Lacerte. It’s an arrangement between them and Kerrilynn, he says. I understand they’ve raised thousands of dollars so far.
“Free” applies to everything he turns out. Canes are generally made in groups of four. “I go into the woods, cut them, strip all the bark off, let them dry at least a week, hand-sand them, then more sanding, at least four times with a water wash.” They’re finally fine finished, even decorated with special materials for special orders.
“I haven’t sold one yet,” says Mr. Lacerte. Pausing, he added, “I make walking sticks, too.”
Grief and disability have taken their toll on Peter and Shirley’s immediate family. “It’s absolutely terrible,” says Peter, admitting that he bypasses news stories about young victims. “I just can’t read them.” Shirley spoke in faith-filled terms.
Returning to Kerrilynn’s battle with EDS, the Lacertes acknowledged their gratitude for the service dog NEADS has provided for her. “I’m doing what I can,” Peter continued, indicating that canes have become a priority. He added a few words about Kerrilynn’s YouTube reports, embracing her approach and attitude.
People can read her writing on the subject for themselves, he said. EDS is a group of inherited disorders marked by extremely loose joints, hyperplasic skin that bruises easily and easily damaged blood vessels, according to a website.
“Those dogs trained for people with disorders, like Kerrilynn, are fantastic,” says Mr. Lacerte. “You have to understand what they do for the people they’re trained to assist.”
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