Volunteer Geohagan puts woodworking skills to use

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St. Vincent de Paul benefits from 91-year-old’s talent

By Robert Villanueva

Tuesday through Saturday most weeks, Bill Geohagan reports for volunteer duty at St. Vincent de Paul Consignment Store on North Mulberry Street in Elizabethtown.


Arriving most days about 8:30 a.m. — an hour and a half before the store opens — Geohagan repairs and refinishes furniture to be sold at the store. He’s usually finished with his work and leaves by noon.

At 91, Geohagan believes in keeping active and helping others.

“I’m gonna stop when I drop,” he said.

Whether it’s a desk, table, chairs or china cabinet that needs repair, Geohagan is ready to tackle the job with other volunteers.

“If we can’t fix them, we throw them away,” he said, laughing.

On only one occasion has that happened, Geohagan said, when a lamp came in that was beyond repair. They don’t work much on electrical items, he said.

Matt Keiser, another volunteer, often works alongside Geohagan.
“They work really well together,” volunteer store manager Dan Petry said.

“He’s my ears,” Geohagan, who is hard of hearing in his left ear, said of Keiser.

Keiser credited Geohagan with being knowledgeable about fixing the furniture that sometimes arrives in pieces.

“He’s got quite the brains upstairs for repairing things,” Keiser said.

The first piece of furniture Geohagan worked on at the store was an antique table that came in with its six legs unattached and a scratched surface.

“They didn’t know what to do with it,” he said.

After Geohagan did repairs and refinished the table, it sold.

The store has been open just more than a year, but Geohagan said he’s been volunteering for St. Vincent de Paul since 1991 in other areas. Before working at the store, he worked at St. Vincent de Paul’s food pantry, stocking and collecting food items.

At one point, he made shelves for the food pantry. His skill at the work didn’t go unnoticed.

Volunteer Judy Banks said when the store opened, she asked Geohagan if he would work with furniture. She recalled when Geohagan first began doing repairs and refinishing, he bought a new car to haul items home to his workshop.

“He has taken so much that has come in here as a piece of junk and made a bunch of money for St. Vincent de Paul,” Banks said.

Geohagan, who retired from the U.S. Navy in 1961 after 21 years and from the postal service in 1980 after 19 years, said he and Keiser have a goal with their work. The goal, he said, is all furniture goes out of the back room workshop better than it was when it came in.

A rolltop desk that came in was in pieces and had to be put together, he said, describing the repairs as something akin to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

Most commonly, Geohagan said, what the furniture needs is refinishing because of scratches. But there’s not always work to do.

“If there’s nothing to do, I just go home,” Geohagan said. “I don’t just stand around.”

Woodworking, he said, came naturally to him, and he gets a good feeling putting his skills to use rather than being inactive after retirement.

“I’m doing my part,” he said.

For 17 years, Geohagan also has been doing his part on the St. James Church bereavement committee, where he served as food coordinator for about 14 years. He’s still on the committee, which arranges meals following the funeral of a church member.

Though he grew up on a farm and has farmed some of his life, Geohagan said he keeps only 58 acres now, and that land is being used by someone else with cattle.

He does grow vegetables, though.

Banks pointed out he often gives away his vegetables to others.
As far as Geohagan is concerned, life is enjoyable just because he’s breathing.

“I don’t have any gripes about anything,” he said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.