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Friday, July 8, 2016

Local WWII Veteran gains a special gift - By Michelle Libby



Don Rogers is well known in Windham. The World War II Veteran, who is a regular at parades and Veterans’ events, recently received an eagle head cane from the Maine Woodcarvers Association as a thank you for his service. 

While at breakfast at Danielle’s Diner last month, Don and Norma, his wife, were approached by a woman who noticed Don’s WWII Veteran hat. She thanked him for his service. A few minutes later Herb Blake, who was eating breakfast with the woman, approached Don and offered to make him an eagle head cane. The project would take a few weeks, he told him. 

“Don was pleased. He couldn’t wait to see him again,” said Norma. When they finally met up again, Don was thrilled. 

“It had his name on it. What a wonderful organization to present that,” she added. 

Herb Blake is the project manager for the eagle canes as a part of the Maine Woodcarvers Association, which provides eagle head canes for Maine Veterans with service related disabilities.
“We can’t keep up with demand,” said Blake. 

The personalized canes are made by 6 to 12 of the approximately 100 members of the organization. The canes, which are given at no cost to the veterans, cost about $20 in materials, but each craftsman put in between 20 to 30 hours to carve the eagle head depending on the amount of detail put into the cane, which is priceless. Each one is personalized by the artist. Donations pay for the materials, which include a rubber base, the cane stalk and the template for the eagle head. 

Personalization varies from flags to wood burning a unit number, medal or ribbons as well as the veteran’s name. Blake decoupages items onto the shaft of the cane for the ones he makes. 

When it comes to a WWII veteran, Blake doesn’t ask questions, he usually puts them at the top of the waiting list that sometimes contains 30 to 40 names. “He seemed healthy and active for his age, but still I put his name to the head of the list. It was the first time I’d seen him. He was wearing a vet cap and using a cane,” Blake said. 

Maine Woodcarvers Association makes and gives away close to 100 canes each year statewide.
“Quite a few do them for family or friends. Sometimes it doesn’t’ come through the project for me to take care of,” said Blake. “I do it to recognize the veterans and their service. We’re a non-profit and it’s our way of saying thank you.”  

Blake has seen Don since giving him the cane. The last time he watched Don shake the cane. “You don’t have one of these, do you?”

“It’s very rewarding to recognize someone and have them enjoy it that much,” Blake said. 

Blake works for Bath Iron Works and lives in New Gloucester. Woodworking is his hobby. Anyone who is interested in carving a cane and has carving skills or would like to donate to the program is encouraged to contact Blake. He will provide the materials and directions. Blake’s email is hblake12@maine.rr.com

Information about the program can be found at www.mainewoodcarvers.org.

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