POWHATAN, Va. — With the passage of time, we have a tendency to look back at life’s accomplishments.
Howard Graham’s past could fill a book. From maintaining guns on Liberty Ships during WWII and hauling tobacco in Richmond, to picking cotton in his native South Carolina.
“Very hard. Like I said from sunup to sundown,” said Howard.
The 97-year-old prides himself on always working with his hands.
“I don’t believe in doing anything halfway. Anything,” Howard said.
But his handiwork hasn’t always been to make a living. If you take a look around Howard’s home, there's evidence of a hobby turned obsession sitting everywhere.
“On the table I have crosses and boxes that I made,” said Howard. “Wherever it will fit in a room, I’ll put it in.”
The Powhatan man learned to work with wood when he was a sailor. “It took me 75 years to do something that I wanted to do."
Since perfecting his art, the aging artist has amassed quite a collection of keepsakes.
“I’ve made over 35,000 crosses,” said Howard.
Each one all handmade. But for Howard, there is never enough.
“I enjoy it. I look forward to it when I get up in the morning,” said Howard. “I stay busy all of the time.”
Seven days a week, Howard escapes to his happy place. Where he whittles wood and time away in his shop.
“I go next door to my wood shop." There is no other spot he’d rather be.
His other hobbies take a back seat.
“As long as it turns out good that is what counts,” he said.
But what brings Howard his greatest pleasure is not keeping his artwork to admire it.
He gives away each one-of-a-kind piece a gift at no charge.
“Making somebody happy. That is the game,” said Howard.
Powhatan deputies, restaurant workers, fellow church members and strangers profit from Howard’s thoughtfulness.
“I can’t think of anybody I haven’t given them to,” said Howard.
On average, Howard spends about $2,000 on supplies every year. It is a small price to pay when you get so much in return.
“All I want is satisfaction and people to be happy. That is my goal,” said Howard.
His daughter, Mary Jackson, says her father is a role model.
“His heart is as big as his body. This is dad. This is his inner being,” said Mary. “Just wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Son-in-law Tim Jackson admires Howard’s generosity.
“He has always been a kind and giving person,” said Tim.
He is an artist perfecting his hobby from the heart.
“As long as I can live. As long as I can do it,” said Howard.
For Howard Graham, his season of giving lasts all year long.
“I feel like when I go to bed at night I have helped somebody. And that is satisfaction to me. And I’ve made somebody happy.”
If you would like to meet Howard, he visits the Mission BBQ location in Midlothian every other Friday where he and other veterans have lunch.
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Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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