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'Sunday Woodcarver' turns Sandy debris into beauty

Don Dailey, 60, of Huntington Station, carves a

Don Dailey, 60, of Huntington Station, carves a piece of wood, left over from a fallen tree caused by superstorm Sandy, into a spoon. (Dec. 18, 2012) Credit: Brittany Wait

As Long Islanders cleared and disposed of fallen trees left in the wake of superstorm Sandy to remove any evidence of the storm, Huntington Station resident Don Dailey salvaged the pieces.

From the remnants of devastation, which he organizes in piles in his driveway, the local furniture maker has turned destruction into beauty, carving pieces into spoons, gnomes and Santas.

“It doesn’t look like anything to you, but this bowl came out of that pile of wood over there,” said Dailey, 60, of Huntington Station, showing one of his crafts. “Look at the rings on this one. It’s beautiful.”

After the storm hit on Oct. 29, his home was without power for six days, half of which he spent carving and then driving around the Huntington area picking up wood on the side of the roads.

“I like the idea of taking this material that people would normally think of as firewood and making it into functional art,” said Dailey, who works at Bob Schendorf Fine Furniture in Huntington. “It gets a new life out of a disaster. That’s really gratifying.”

Dailey, who has been carving since age 13, became scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 12 in Huntington a decade ago and has since been teaching the scouts how to carve wooden pendants to hold their neckerchiefs in place.

In the past year, his hobby turned into a side business. Dailey sells his items on and through his website, “The Sunday Woodcarver.”

His wife, Diane Dailey, said her husband is a real renaissance man; besides his woodworking he has also composed music.

“He’s always been very resourceful,” she said. “He can make something out of nothing. It didn’t surprise me that he would use the wood from fallen trees. The beauty of the end products as a result of that was great to witness.”

Dailey’s friend, Mary McCourt, became one of his most loyal customers after last Christmas, when Dailey gave her family a hand-carved wooden angel tree ornament as a gift. This came at a time when her family had been grieving over the sudden loss of their 22-year-old son Patrick, who was struck by a car on Sept. 17, 2011.

“It was a beautiful, strong and more masculine angel,” said McCourt, 56, of Huntington. “It was perfect in light of what happened to Patrick. It meant so much to us.”

McCourt appreciated the gift so much that she kept on buying the wooden spoons and ornaments that were recycled from fallen trees in Huntington to give to her 80-year-old mother, whose home in Hampton Bays was damaged by both Tropical Storm Irene and Sandy.

Suzanne Pelisson-Beasley, who has known Dailey for nearly five years, wasn’t aware of how talented her friend was until she received a black walnut coffee scoop he carved as a gift.

“All of his stuff is really amazing, but I have the maple coffee scoop of his, which I absolutely love,” said Pelisson-Beasley, 52, of Huntington. “I love the way the wood feels in your hand and I really do think the coffee tastes better in the morning.”

Pelisson-Beasley was also easily won over by the idea of recycling the wood from fallen trees.

“I love the idea of using the wood from trees that had grown on Long Island for hundreds of years to make products that we are now all enjoying,” she said. “The work that he does is really a gift when you see what he can create with his own hands.”

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