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Navy veteran carves out a new career

August 31, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO - In Thornton "Pat" White's barn along Zittlestown Road, the sweet sounds of the songbirds almost seem to be originating from the lifelike forms of birds and waterfowl gracing his shelves.

The reality of White's carved masterpieces almost makes one believe - just for an instant - that somehow the two are related.

But no, the wooden statues are indeed silent though compelling in their detail and beauty.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, White had a 25-year career in the U.S. Navy and then another 16 years working for a government satellite communications agency.

White and his wife, Sally, were living in Cape Anne, Md., near the Chesapeake Bay when they started "looking around" for a new home.

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They came upon a log house and 100-year-old barn on South Mountain east of Boonsboro. The 6 1/2-acre property with the house and barn cost $8,000 with annual taxes of just $60 a year in the 1960s.

"I asked Sally how she would like to live on Zittlestown Road and she said fine," White said.

Sally, his wife of 51 years, died two years ago. Their daughter is currently renovating the house while White occupies the barn.

"I needed something to do after I retired," White said. His pursuit led him to Penn Alps, Md., near Grantsville, where he met world-class woodcarver Gary Yoder 10 years ago.

"Gary was my mentor," White said. "If I have a problem, I go see Gary."

So White learned the trade and has been honing it ever since, sometimes on commission and sometimes just for himself.

On one shelf is a life-size roadrunner - one of five he carved. "The other four are in Arizona," White said.

Nearby on that shelf sits an amazingly detailed miniature blue heron. Under the base is a red ribbon which proclaims that White won second place in 2003 with this work at the Ward World Championships held annually in Ocean City.

"I carved a turkey that was 18 inches tall," White said, holding it up for perusal. "It took me a year."

A Baltimore oriole, cardinal and wren seemed so lifelike they could almost fly off the shelves.

Keeping White company one recent afternoon was Norman Sandler, a friend of 30 years. "I come to pester," Sandler said as he worked on his latest project.

But White said his friend is also devoted to woodcarving and often comes to work on his specialty, which is known as intarsia - the delicate inlaying of woods of different tones into a single art object.

Lately White and Sandler have been talking about the possibility of starting a woodcarving club in the area similar to the one White is involved in when he travels to Florida each year.

"We have 130 members in our club in Fort Myers - men, women, young and old," White said. Each year, the club holds a big woodcarving show and people come from all over the country.

Anyone interested in learning woodcarving and helping to form a local chapter for woodcarvers can contact White at 301-432-8234.

"If there is enough interest, we could have a get-together and see where we could do it and when," White said.

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