WORTHINGTON — When Gerrit and Sylvia Bos moved a few years ago from their rural Rushmore farm to a new home inside Worthington’s Homestead Cooperative, Gerrit needed to find something to keep himself busy.
He didn’t have to look too far.
Just down the hall from the couple’s unit is a wood shop, open to residents to craft and create whatever they dream up.
For Gerrit, the shop has turned out to be his refuge. It’s where he spends three to five hours each day — sometimes longer — notching out words and images with a scroll saw, layering pieces together and putting the finishing touches on project after project.
“I wouldn’t even dare to venture,” he said of the number of projects he’s completed since first learning the art of scroll work five years ago. He was taught by a fellow snowbird over the course of three winters at their park in Mission, Texas.
“He was a perfectionist and I’m that way, too,” Gerrit said. “If I make a mistake, I throw it away and start over with a new one.”
Gerrit said he’s always enjoyed working with wood, but there was never really time for it until he retired. He was one of 13 kids, and farm life meant milking cows and doing chores and just plain working hard. He and Sylvia married in 1954, and two years later, Gerrit was drafted by the U.S. Army. He served for two years, and was stationed in Germany for a portion of his tour.
Gerrit and Sylvia moved following his honorable discharge to southwest Minnesota, where he found work for a farmer. He’d later operate a trucking business and go into farming for himself.
Now that he’s retired, sitting at the saw and cutting around a pattern brings Gerrit great joy.
“You’ve got to have something to do,” he said.
Gerrit’s most recent project — a large plaque bearing the emblems of each branch of the military — was gifted to Homestead Cooperative and hangs on a wall inside the community room there. The piece was Gerrit’s dream project, and it’s garnered much praise from visitors and residents alike.
The residents have known Gerrit’s talents for a while, as many of them have ordered welcome signs made from the decorative scroll work to hang outside their doors.
The military emblems are made from seven different hardwoods — black walnut, white oak, red oak, maple, ash, beech and cherry. The hardwoods pose more of a challenge with scroll work because of the time it takes to work the tiny saw blade through the wood, but Gerrit prefers to use them because of their quality and appearance. He estimates each emblem took approximately 25 hours to complete, including both cut work and staining.
“Some people can probably do it a lot faster,” he said with a shrug.
With arthritis and two carpal tunnel surgeries in his wrists — one a year ago and the other just two months ago — Gerrit can only work in the shop for an hour at a time, and then he has to take a break to rest his wrists.
He isn’t going to let a little pain stop him from enjoying his hobby.
“I enjoy doing it,” he said. “We’re thankful for what we can do.
“If I couldn’t be in that shop, I couldn’t be here,” he added. “I’ve got to do something.”
Gerrit has churned out a lot of scrolled crosses in the past several years — they're one of the most popular requests he has from people. In addition to the military emblems, one of his favorite pieces is The Lord’s Prayer he made in scroll work. The couple has several of his pieces on display in their home, including The Lord’s Supper, proudly displayed underneath a painting of the same scene.
Gerrit uses a pattern for each of his pieces, and has never ventured to create his own design.
“Some people can dream up stuff, but I can’t,” he said.
Wood for his projects comes from a variety of sources, including local cabinet maker Loren Postma. Sometimes people give him pieces to make a specific project.
“I make a lot for other people,” he said.
While Gerrit keeps busy in the wood shop, Sylvia enjoys embroidery work and doing puzzles.
The couple marked their 65th wedding anniversary on March 16, and a surprise party hosted by their family greeted them when they returned from Texas.
The couple has two daughters, Shirley (Richard) Lupkes, Rushmore, and Julie Hullerman, Sioux Center, Iowa; and one son, Gary (Jeni) Bos, rural Rushmore. They, along with 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, have been the proud recipients of several pieces of Gerrit’s woodwork.