“Life Rolls On” is the motto of Dennis Lowery, a 34 year old from Montgomery IL. Memorial Day, 2011, Dennis’s life would change forever as he relaxed at a BBQ when he decided to jump in the swimming in the pool. An ill-fated dive cause his C7 vertebrate to explode. After 6-7 weeks in and induced coma at the hospital, another 2 on a ventilator, three months rehab out of state, and having his C7, C6 & C5 fused, he was no longer able to walk, or have use of his body from the chest down. And on top of that his predominant right-hand was no longer functioning as normal, and Dennis was forced to relearn tasks using his newly predominant left-hand. Even so, he says he is thankful that he can still move some muscles because with his injury. His hand motor functions are far better than most with his condition, which is technically called a C7 Incomplete SCI. According to medical literature, the movement in his hands should be far more severely impaired.
“It’d be nice to just be able to move my legs. I don’t even care if I walk again.” Said Lowery, as simple tasks like adjusting your own body become difficult tasks for other parts of your body – he shows me how he manually moves his leg into a better position using both hands to grasp around his kneed and push his leg over.
Despite this unfortunately disability, Dennis started wood working around three years ago when he was refinishing vintage furniture. And for the last year or two he has been making his own custom creations using locally milled and processed lumber. I like to “stay busy”. “Instead of sitting inside with my injury, I do something in the garage.”
Visiting Mr. Lowery’s garage workshop, it’s obvious that these tasks and craftsmanship would be difficult with a fully able-body, yet Dennis is able to create wonderful looking pieces from resources both natural and reclaimed. An old sewing machine bench doubles as the stand for a new rustic live-edge slab table in the corner. Of which sold just days after our interview.
Dennis sells his items under the name “L.R.O. Wood Works” Which stands for “Life Rolls On.” He makes anything from small crafty-style can openers and various hangers for plants or any decoration, to intricate ‘waterfall’ tables from natural local lumber.
Most of his business comes by word of mouth, but he does set up often at the Kane County Flea Market. He’s caught on that most people assume that he was not the one that made the furniture, since there is usually a fully abled gentleman next to him… however, I think that makes it even more of a special piece. There is much more time and care put into these pieces than anything you can purchase at a normal store.
Besides offering the items already for sale, he often gets special requests which he is glad to do. Because he receives disability, he doesn’t find a need to over-charge for these great works of art, and he is only allowed to subsidise his disability to a certain extent. It makes a great opportunity for someone to own a locally crafted piece.
Coffee tables, lantern & basket hangers, headboards, mirror frames, and more are items you may see for sale. He’s also made a live-edge bench for his own wedding last June, which guests were asked to sign at the reception.
Pieces range anywhere from the mid-sized $275/$300ish, to a full custom table at around $2,000, and some of the smaller decor for about $65-75.
Considering the time and workmanship put into them, they are a great deal.
I asked Dennis how he moves all these heavy pieces of lumber, tools, scraps and ‘stuff’ in general. He replied “I pretty much man-handle everything” Although he did say that from time to time his wife will help pick something from the ground, or someone might help him move a finished product from the bench to the floor.
Lifting items is the hardest for him, but once it’s in his lap, he simply wheels it to its next work station he’s set up for himself.
One thing Dennis did mention that became sometimes a problem was the fact that since he had lost strength in his hands, using a circular saw was difficult now. OnlyOswego.com reached out to Milwaukee tools, and they were so kind enough to send Dennis a brand new cordless Circular saw which they hope might be easier for him to use. A big thanks to Milwaukee tools!
It “keeps me busy; keeps my mind off things.” He says he’d love to make it bigger in the future, but for now he’s happy working every day in his garage.
If you have a chance, please check Dennis Lowery out on Facebook
And reach him by email: Dlow12484@yahoo.com
Don’t forget to share this article and support a great guy who is working locally, with local materials, to support himself, regardless of the obstacles that stand in the way.