It was when Bob Newsome got a phone call from the child battling cancer that he had never met that he knew this was something he would continue to do.
“The boy said, ‘I know I will never meet you but I just wanted to thank you for your time and effort that you put into making my Beads of Courage box,’” Newsome said. “That phone call was a blessing. That made it all worth it.
“The first year I did just the one Beads of Courage Box but after that phone call the next year I made more,” Newsome said about the wooden Beads of Courage Boxes that members of the American Woodturners Association make for children battling cancer.
Through the Beards of Courage program children receive colorful beads as a symbol of their courage during their treatment journey. “They are given a bead every time they do something brave, like spend the night in a hospital without their parents or have a treatment,” Newsome explained. “Some of those children have thousands of beads.”
Creating a vessel worthy of holding the beads representing a child’s courage is a challenge undertaken by the National Woodturner’s Association, according to Newsome. “They need something to hold their collection in.”
Newsome is a member of the Wiregrass Woodturners, a local chapter of the national association. The Wiregrass Woodturners meet on the first Saturday of each month at 9:30 a.m. at Landmark Park in Dothan. Members are of all skill levels and anyone interested is invited to drop by a meeting, he said.
Woodturning is a form of wood working that uses a machine called a lathe. A woodturner uses a lathe, which is a specialized machine that turns the wooden object while the wood turner creates the design. Wood workers use more commonly available carpenter tools to build products made out of wood.
Newsome has three lathes in his work shop which is located next to his home built on land that has been in his family for three generations. “This is my grandparent’s land,” the son of the late Tom and Louise Newsome said.
“I got it from my grandparents and me and my father built my house, built my pole barn, my shop, my boat shed,” Newsome said, adding that his father was a locally renowned gardener. “He loved to grow things. He could take a dead stick and stick it in the ground and it would grow.
“My grandfather was one of the ones who helped build the Camp Rucker barracks,” Newsome said. “I have his old footlocker and a lot of his old hand tools.
“My dad joined the Army for a short time,” Newsome said. “He later became a mechanic and then an inspector on the fire trucks at Fort Rucker. He retired from Rucker and got to building homes.
“I reckon I’m considered a third-generation wood worker—and now a woodturner,” said the Enterprise native who retired from Covington Electric Cooperative after 37 years.
Wood working was first a hobby that has turned into a part time job, Newsome said. “I do it now for fun when I’m not hunting or fishing.
“I work by the 3 Ps,” he explained. “First of all I’ve got to like the person. Second, I’ve got to like the project and third, we’ve got to agree on the price.
“Then if I don’t do it, it’s up to you to decide which one of them three I didn’t like,” he added with a smile.
Newsome and fellow Wiregrass Woodturner Bill Gunnett met at Newsome’s work shop recently to talk about the Beads of Courage boxes.
Gunnett is a retired Army aviator who learned wood working from his grandfather. “I took shop (in high school) and I did what I had to but all the stuff I’m really passionate about my grandfather taught me,” he said. “My grandfather taught me when I was a boy how to woodwork but it wasn’t until about three and one half years ago that I started working on lathes.
Handcrafted cribs for his granddaughters are what he calls “the most treasured things” that he has made. “It keeps me sane,” he said about his hobby.
The Beads of Courage program was started in 2003 in Phoenix, Ariz. The woodturners are provided with guidelines for the boxes, Gunnett said. “They give you the dimensions but they don’t say anything about the design so it gives the wood work artist a chance to be as creative as possible.”
“Somewhere in each box, we have to incorporate the Beads of Courage logo,” Newsome added. “They give us cards to fill out with our name, address and phone number.”
That is the way that Newsome received the phone call from the recipient of the first treasure box he made. “It does make it more meaningful when a child that you don’t and probably will not ever meet calls and says thanks,” he said.
“I’m just a wood worker,” he added. “I take a piece of firewood and make something useful out of it.”