By Nick Kenkel
Thomas Grzesiak, a longtime member of Sacred Heart Parish near Lakeville, is retired. Lakeville is Grzesiak’s hometown, and it’s there he has exercised his woodcarving hobby for several years. Over time he has become very accomplished, with his works of art including a full-size bear and huge owl, along with many smaller carvings.
Grzesiak was a foster child who was adopted at the age of 16 by Rose Culp. Culp, a longtime foster mother in Lakeville, gave a home to more than 70 babies until their adoption. From her, Grzesiak said, he learned generosity and to give of himself, at an early age.
In 2004, after several years of experiencing serious health issues and battling tremors, Grzesiak was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As he adjusted to his new physical limitations, he found he could still use the talent he feels God gave to him, in a new way.
He began to carve custom wooden canes, but only when needed by friends, family and especially Sacred Heart parishioners. Grzesiak doesn’t remember exactly when he made the first one, but does remember who received it.
As a need would arise due to age, accident or surgery, Grzesiak was quick to offer to make one of his canes.
No two were exactly alike, and his system changed over time because of the availability of materials and new methods he would learn. One unique cane that he made featured a Corvette handle; another, made for his 95-year-old mother, depicted a pet dog.
All the canes he makes are created and given away freely by Grzesiak. To date, at least 50 custom canes and many floral pins are proudly used and worn by people in the area.
One of Grzesiak’s favorite stories is one that made him feel rewarded for his efforts. He shared that one time, he saw a lady who was unknown to him using one of his canes in a store. “Hey, I know that cane!” he cried out spontaneously, much to the lady’s surprise. He had recognized his work, and was gratified to realize that his creations will go on being used and passed around for years. It is what he and others refer to as Tom Grzesiak’s “wonderful cane legacy.”
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