Remembering Wayne Ivy

Wayne Ivy

And now the end is near

And so I face the final curtain.

My friend I’ll say it clear

I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full

I traveled each and every highway.

And more, much more than this

I did it my way

     — Paul Anka

    

    Since Wayne Curtis Ivy passed into the spirit realm on Oct. 22, 2011, it’s been a quiet year: his shop doors are closed; his tools and chisels are still on the worktable; and his pipe is empty.

    As Ali Harrington, wood-shop apprentice and “gift daughter,” said, “I love him and I miss him and it’s weird not having him around. I still have a lot of questions and I channel him when I’m in my shop.”

    For Tom Kennedy, another devoted apprentice, Wayne was also more than a teacher. “I worked directly with Wayne in his classes for four months — then I became his student for life.”

    

Once in a lifetime

    After a career as construction superintendent for Corey Delta, headquartered in San Francisco’s Bay Area, Wayne and Linda moved to the Peninsula full-time in 1992. “He loved this place,” said Linda at their home last week, “the rhodies and the green. He spent all the time he could in his shop.”  

    Dan Evans, also in the construction industry, first purchased furniture from Wayne 15 years ago when he saw a few pieces at Tony Garzino’s jewelry shop on Bay Avenue in Ocean Park.

    “We could sit and talk for hours about jobs. We didn’t ever compete with each other because our firm stayed out of California, but we certainly knew a lot of the same people. We played golf together — we both smoked pipes. We had a lot in common.

    “Wayne was smart and talented, a tremendous project manager. They would just turn him loose on the road and give him a checkbook and he’d deliver the goods. I’ve been in construction for 40 years and I’ve watched a lot of superintendents. When someone with that amount of energy and talent comes along — well, it’s once in a lifetime.”

    Wayne built enormous food processing plants. On his shop wall is a sequence of photos: acres of desert then a complex manufacturing factory built from beginning to end under his supervision.

    

Master craftsman

    But Wayne left all that behind when he moved to the Peninsula; he became something very different from that take-charge boss-man he’d been on the road. With no formal training, Wayne turned himself into a master craftsman of Stickley-style oak furniture. He mastered wood joinery and used a method of bringing out the grain of quarter-sawn oak — his material of choice — by “fuming” it  with ammonia.

    Kennedy said Wayne also had a special touch as an instructor, “Wayne was always accommodating in keeping your ego intact. You’d make a mess of something and then he’d say something like ‘You know there might be a better way to do that,’ and he’d take his chisel out and show you, or he might even draw a picture.

    “I was struck with sadness over his last year. Wayne would call and say, ‘Can you come over for a minute?’ Then I’d get to his shop and find he needed help lifting something up onto the work bench. That’s when he stopped taking furniture orders and switched to doing boxes and smaller items so he could still keep his hand in it.” Boxes, quirky birds, hope chests or tables — all of Wayne’s work was elegant.

    Evans said, “Wayne’s built about every piece of furniture in my house, from the bed to the kitchen table. He was an incredible craftsman but he could never give you a timeline.” Kennedy concurs, “Wayne told me that if a piece of work wasn’t going well, he’d just stop and leave it alone for awhile. He said he had to wait for the piece to speak to him.”

    

Giving back

    “He was very proud of his woodwork,” Kennedy continued, “but he was more proud of his contributions to the community. He was always making something for a school’s silent auction or for some other fundraiser.

    “He just liked working with people. I guess that’s the biggest thing I got from Wayne, the importance of giving back to the community.”

    Everyone who knew him spoke eloquently about Wayne’s gifts to other people. But Bob Harrington, long-time Peninsula resident, remembered Wayne’s trajectory, “The program that he worked required him to change many parts of his life from a building superintendent to working in his own shop making beautiful furniture. He was a perfectionist when it came to making furniture — if he made a mistake on one board, it went in the junk.

    “But when Wayne first came up from California, I said I’d better find out if I can straighten this guy out and get him headed back to where he came from. I thought, ‘Who is this yokel from California?’ I kept telling him, ‘When are you leaving?’ But he stayed and got himself straightened out.”

    It seems, in the end, Wayne was a man of forgiveness both for himself and others. Greg Dewey, a friend and confidant, said, “One thing I’ll never forget about Wayne was that he was always available to talk if you needed it. You’d drive by and see the van in the driveway and the shop door ajar. His workshop was a place to congregate.”

Rocking Chair

    His second “gift daughter,” Ann Frittante, met Wayne in the midst of a solo vacation at the beach. “I saw a desk Wayne made at Long Beach Coffee and I thought about it all week. Finally I decided to buy it. I called him up and said, ‘That’s the most money I’ve ever spent at a coffee shop!’ Then I went up to meet him and we talked for three hours.” Ann became a regular visitor to the Ivy household.

    “Once I remember there was this gorgeous rocking chair he’d made for some woman who hadn’t called back and another couple came to look at it. When they asked, ‘How much?’ Wayne said, ‘I hiked the price up a couple hundred dollars.’ He wanted his furniture to go to people he liked — it wasn’t about the money.” Ann bought the rocking chair.

    Wayne faced his “final curtain” with equanimity and peace. As Bob and Pat Harrington said in Wayne’s Penttila’s Chapel guest book, “There are no more problems where you are now. May all your lumber be straight and your tools sharp.”

    Wayne’s celebration of life  — followed by a potluck — will be held this weekend, Saturday, May 19 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at 31523 Sandridge Road. Turn left on My Way Lane.

    

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