Bill Allen’s memory will live on in woodshop class

      Barbara Lawlor, Nederland.  Halo peels dotted the Black Forest Restaurant’s parking lot on Saturday afternoon. They were left behind by almost 100 people attending Bill Allen’s celebration of life.

During the ceremony, Bill’s wife Marie handed out white tapered candles and Halo oranges, which she says symbolized his life. The candles stand for a pure heart and the oranges stand for Bill’s love of sunrise, a chance at another day.

Marie says that before Bill died, he looked at the end of the bed and said, “What about all the oranges on the bed?”

Bill was born on October 22, 1955 and lived life to December 2, 2016. In his time, he was an amazing athlete, climber, father, school bus driver and woodworker. He loved being outdoors and he loved his family.

After coming to Nederland in the 70’s, Bill set up a woodworking shop and although he made a living doing other things, being a craftsman and perfecting his woodworking skills was always something he came back to. A few years ago, he chose to share those skills with local students at the Nederland Middle Senior High School.

A high school woodworking shop was a thing of the past, not available to students, and Bill decided that he could give of his time and talent to resurrect the skill of creating works of functional art from a natural source.

He got together with local philanthropist David Shortridge and convinced the Shortridge Family Foundation to donate funds for equipment. He talked to friends, like Udo Sille, who helped him shape the tools to resurrect the lathe. He found a compressor, a belt sander and built a venting system.

The woodworking class became a reality and was popular for both boys and girls who found working with their hands was a satisfying feeling. Bill volunteered his time and knowledge under the auspices of certified teacher Mark Mabbett and the willingness of the school.

His co-mentor Bill Thibedeau spoke at Bill’s memorial, remembering how Bill would find beautiful hardwoods that would allow the students to explore their own passion for working with wood.

“Bill was passing it on. His love of wood. He taught them that wood was special, had integrity and yet was malleable. It had different grains, hardnesses and tones, sort of a metaphor for Bill himself. Tough but malleable, with great integrity. Bill knew this is his soul. He was a master woodworker.”

Thibedeau and teacher Mark Mabbett don’t want Bill’s legacy to the school to fade away. They are working to keep the woodworking shop alive. Thibedeau says he has talked to students who love the class and knows plenty of adults who share that feeling.

“For some it was a career path. For others it was a chance to use their hands and not just their thumbs. It was a diversion from all the hard classes and demanding teachers in the rest of their school day. It was a chance to use other parts of their brain.”

To help keep Bill’s dream alive and to allow Ned students to learn the valuable skills of finding the beauty in wood and making it a useful work of art, a fund has been set up at Centennial Bank to keep the class feasible.

And to honor a brilliant man who turned his talent to a valuable learning experience that will last a lifetime to all who took the step backward to creating with their hands, not just their thumbs.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.