It was tough to slow down after overseeing four stores with his brother, working six days a week, often till 9 p.m. Though he and his wife traveled extensively at the beginning of retirement 22 years ago — they’ve visited every state in the country and been to Paris five or six times — travel got to be too difficult as they got older.
So when the couple moved to Wesley Palms Retirement Community in Pacific Beach 10 years ago, Israel was content to continue his longtime hobby of woodworking.
“I’ve always been very handy,” he said. “My mother taught me. “My woodworking really grew after I quit working (in Pennsylvania). I had to have something to do.”
Fortunately, the retirement community has a fully equipped workshop, to which Israel added some of his favorite tools. Now 92, the engineering graduate puts in at least 10 hours a week in the shop fashioning the toys he donates to local children for Christmas.
He pays for all his own supplies, and the only requirement to using the woodshop is donating his services, along with a handful of residents, to fellow residents who bring tables, chairs, lamps and even some jewelry for repair.
The father of three, a grandfather and great-grandfather figures he has made several hundred boats, planes, dumptrucks and stools that he’s given to Father Joe, Toys for Tots and a Mexican orphanage, as well as some to family and friends. Among his favorite projects are cradles that convert to cribs and toolboxes complete with wooden tools.
His secret to a healthy life and retirement is simple — keeping busy.
“I worked hard while working, bookkeeping and physical work. I don’t have the patience for sitting still.”
When he’s not cutting, drilling or sanding, he “fiddles on the computer,” reads three newspapers and cooks the two meals a day he and his wife don’t eat in the community dining room.
He has no grand aspirations for his craft and how it might cheer children who don’t otherwise get many presents.
“I really don’t expect anything from it,” he said. “ I just like the busywork. ”
His toys, he says, “are more about the process than the goal.”