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A busy workshop

Ortonville Vietnam veteran has created countless creations Geppetto worked feverishly in his workshop, creating a life-like Pinocchio,  hoping one day his dream of a real boy would come to fruition. But that was a  fairy-tale and the audience played lets-pretend along with the author. Today there are real Gepettos out there, creating real images, making  their Disney World dreams a reality.  One such wood carver, upholsterer, carpenter  with a vivid imagination, lives on Big Stone Lake in Ortonville. He labors daily in his home workshop. Jerry Parker, 63, never set out to be a master craftsman. The disabled Vietnam veteran returned from the war and began his career in a small machine shop in Ortonville. He had recently graduated from NDSCS in Wahpeton, N.D.,  his hometown. While in high school, he worked for a men’s clothing store as a tailor, doing all the alterations. “I took almost every course they offered at NDSCS,” he laughed, “extending the two year school to four years. I even took an upholstery course. I also met my wife Becky in between classes.” Jerry’s varied hands-on skills soon generated his own full-time upholstery  business, with his wife working along side of him. They bought a small rambler on the lake and raised their three children. During this time, the house went through four major remodeling projects, with Jerry drawing the blueprints and completing the work himself. He quickly gives credit to his wife for creating many of the ideas. “She would have an idea and I would implement it.” The “Homestead Workshop” evolved into an upholstery business, with custom-made canvas fish houses, personalized van cover tires, intricately designed carvings on gun stocks and wooden Indian busts for yard ornaments. “I even had a shoe repair shop at one time,” said Jerry as he reflected on his past. An area financial institution displayed several of Jerry’s  furniture pieces. “They showcased fainting couches, Victorian chairs, an antique leather rocking chair and footstool, and red velvet cutters and sleigh seats in their lobby.” In order to pick-up and deliver his furniture, Jerry purchased a funeral coach. His couches fit perfectly on the former coffin slides inside the vehicle. The unusual service vehicle received many curious stares and a few new customers as his reputation grew through “word of mouth.” Jerry and Becky’s three children, Steve, Seth and Samara, often benefited  from their stay at home dad and his original handiwork. Halloween costumes were never purchased, but appeared like magic from the midst of dad’s workshop. A giant school mascot, “Old Blue Eyes” was also given life on the floor of Jerry’s workshop in 1983. The seven foot tall orange and black mascot helped the Ortonville Trojans on to tournament play. Today Jerry is retired from his assorted creative endeavors. Becky has her  own business as a certified financial planner in an office downtown, which was remodeled by her husband. A heart attack and prostate cancer has slowed the thrice wounded Vietnam war veteran. At his recent check-up at the veteran’s hospital, the government declared him a disabled veteran.  As the children left home, Jerry began to concentrate on projects he had put off for many years. The home went through another major renovation in 2007 with an addition of a great room above his shop. Ortonville’s Geppetto immersed himself into creating “one of a kind” pieces like his adjustable bench window seat. This summer, Jerry and Becky’s recently remodeled lake home was featured in the area’s tour of homes. The once small rambler has now tripled in size. The 1952 home they purchased in 1976 is located at 61 Dahle Street on Parker’s Bay. It is a showcase of love and a masterpiece of custom features. A colorful tile pieced walleye can be seen jumping through the weeds on the  kitchen’s back splash. An elaborate floor  tiled  medallion greets visitors as they step in the front door. Overnight guests can sleep in Parker’s Murphy bed with its delicately carved door. Jerry’s original touches can be seen inside and outside his home. The five grandchildren have a doubledecker tree house complete with beds and a kitchen. Windows allow them to fish from their secluded hiding place in the tree. Indian busts, flowers, and rock landscaping adorn the yard that Jerry carefully  diagrammed to include the most minute details. The fishing boat is tied to the dock. It is Jerry’s retreat from the hustle and bustle of his own “to do” list. “Work can wait”, says Jerry. It’s time to go fishing.” He slowly pulls out of Parker Cove and into the waters of Big Stone Lake.

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