By Ed Brock
Ron Hoenes is one of Santa's little helpers.
In his garage workshop in Jonesboro he carves "Merry Christmas" signs, signs for college football teams, toys and puzzles.
"Usually as I get into October and November things stay rather busy," Hoenes said.
Of course, 68-year-old Hoenes carves other things, like a massive hutch and shelf system that sits in one room of his house.
"I had to have somewhere to display my Coke bottle collection," Hoenes said.
He also needed a rack on which to store his collection of signed baseball bats that sits alongside his collection of over 300 autographed baseballs. He's made clocks and cabinets and lots of other things since his mother bought him a Sears jigsaw when he was still a youth.
"Almost anything can be done with wood if you have the right tools, knowledge and time," Hoenes said.
A native of New Jersey, Hoenes spent some time playing baseball after high school before going to Temple Technical Institute in Philadelphia to study architectural design. After that he worked for a pre-cast concrete company as an estimator for a while, then did his time in the Army before finishing his education at Trenton State College in Trenton N.J., now the College of New Jersey. He entered the education field in 1963 and moved with his wife Patsy to Clayton County in 1982. Earlier this week he retired from his position as coordinator of technical career education for Clayton County Public Schools.
But the orders have been coming in for hand-carved Christmas presents. The "Merry Christmas" plaques and especially the college team plaques are his best sellers. He carves them out of scrap wood from construction sight and keeps them on hand to sell for $10 at craft shows or to call in customers.
"Whoever wins the national championship, I do a number of those and take them to shows," Hoenes said. "People will buy some of them."
Hoenes has done special orders in the past for Jo Lynne McEwen, owner of Simple Pleasures on Main Street in downtown Jonesboro, who has sold Hoenes' work on consignment off and on for the past 19 years.
"I got him to custom cut for me "Frankly my dear" and "Tomorrow is another day," McEwen. "He's very creative. He does good work. He's very particular about what he does."
In fact Hoenes said he doesn't do furniture for other people because they would have to pay him so much because of the intense planning that goes into each piece.
McEwen said Hoenes' work sells well, and his puzzle pieces are also popular. Those include a 3-D puzzle Nativity set and Noah's Ark, as well as custom made stools with puzzle pieces in the middle forming the name of the child recipient of the gift.
"Mostly grandparents buy them for their grandchildren," Hoenes said. "Usually people buy one and they call me a couple of years later for another, as long as their kids keep having children."
Hoenes plans to keep carving and he's got some regular clients for some of his work. Anyone who wants to place an order can call Hoenes at (770) 478-3952.
But even though he now has more time on his hands, but he doesn't plan to turn his art into a business.
"I don't want to retire and be working full time," Hoenes said.
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