Sometimes it’s the craftsman who saves the craft.
Sometimes it’s the craft that saves the craftsman.
Both are true for Rick Godfrey, better known to Outer Banks residents and visitors as the Wood Wizard.
It was in June of this year when Godfrey suffered an incapacitating brain bleed while at home alone. His wife, Bonnie, was away on a cruise with her mother. He lay immobilized on the floor for several hours, until his friends, alerted by Godfrey’s barking dog, went to investigate.
Thanks to his friends’ quick action, Rick was airlifted to the hospital in Norfolk in time to save his life. But the stroke immobilized the entire right side of his body, including his wood carving hand.
“We’ve learned that his arm and hand are the very last things to come back if they are going to come back,” says Bonnie, who is hoping to raise awareness of the situation. “Being a craftsman, that concerns him. He wants that back.”
That is because Rick’s love of wood goes deep, both in years and in passion.
His interest was first piqued at age 12, when his father challenged the lad to carve a stock for his grandfather’s double-barrel shotgun. Using only a hacksaw and rasp, the teen did such a remarkable job that his father gifted him the gun, which still hangs proudly in the couple’s Barco shop, the Wood Wizard Rustic Furniture and Gift Shop.
Rick set his carving aside to pursue a career in construction. About 10 years ago, his interest was reawakened. At age 55, he had to have both hips replaced, which meant six months of recovery. Some friends gave him a set of carving tools to while away the time.
He started by carving wood spirits, those wizened faces sometimes called green men, out of pieces of driftwood. As his skill improved, a local shop asked if they could carry his work.
They started selling so well that, eventually, the couple took over operation of that shop, which led to them to opening the Wood Wizard.
This latest setback means Rick will have to learn to carve for the third time in his life. This time, Bonnie hopes that woodcarving will be what pulls her husband back to full function. It has always been his connection to the universe.
“In his mind, wood is God’s canvas,” Bonnie explains. “When we take logs to the sawmill, you don’t know what is inside until it is cut open. Then you might find a beautiful piece. It could be spalted, or it could have beautiful grain. He decides when he looks at it what he will build out of it. It could be a coffee table or a dining table. In driftwood, it could be wood spirits.”
For now, Godfrey’s recovery progress is working, however painfully and however slowly.
“We’ve come a little way, and we’re feeling better about it. When I first saw him trying to speak, I couldn’t understand anything. I didn’t know if he knew I was there or not. It was very frightening, but as time went on, it got better. I wanted it to be better in days; it took weeks. But I am grateful for that.”
She is also grateful for progress made.
“I can understand what he says now. It’s wonderful to be able to communicate again, to know what his needs and thoughts and wants are. He is doing lots of therapy and working hard at it. He doesn’t want to stop,” she says. “When they tell him, ‘OK, you’ve done enough,’ he says, ‘no, I want to do more.’ He has a great attitude and is very motivated.”
Bonnie notes that her husband is a private person, and they are both uncomfortable pushing any public fundraising efforts. But, again, their friends have stepped forward. They are sponsoring a raffle to help pay for services not covered by insurance. The drawing features some of Godfrey’s hand-carved wood creations, including a dining table made of wood reclaimed from a 115-year-old Appomattox barn and which that still shows the original saw marks; a 19-inch by 24-inch wine rack made of figured maple, with six bottles of wine from different wineries and six wine glasses. Firefighters in Elizabeth City have also pitched a corn hole game for the raffle.
Raffle tickets are $5 each and can be purchased at the Wood Wizard Rustic Furniture and Gift Shop, 3935 Caratoke Highway, Barco. The drawing is Sept. 28, and ticketholders need not be present to win.
“When Rick recovered from his hip surgery, he said, you know, I really enjoy woodcarving and I think I’ll keep doing it,” Bonnie says. “I think that carving will pull him out of the stroke as well. As soon as he gets movement back in his fingers, I can see him starting to whittle. There is nothing Rick loves more than working in his workshop.”