October 6, 2010 Edition

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Hobbies keep couple
busy during retirement

Simpson poses with several of his woodwork creations, including carved and painted gourds, a candleholder, an intarsia portrait and a lamp.
Submitted Photo ~ Kathy Simpson
Shantelle Prater
Staff Writer

On a daily basis, Ronnie Simpson of Walnut Ridge can be found in his woodworking shop surrounded by carved and painted gourds and other handcrafted wooden art.

Although Ronnie has always dabbled in woodworking, it wasn't until after retirement that his hobby became full fledged.

"I carve just about every day if I'm not playing golf," Simpson said.

Ronnie has created numerous wooden pieces, including carved and painted gourds and a replica of the first floor lamp created. He also creates wooden ballpoint pens and makes mosaics using intarsia, which is a form of wood inlaying.

"Not many people can do it," said Ronnie about the intarsia pieces. "It's an old art that came from England and it's not that hard, but many don't know how."

Ronnie's favorite creation to make is decorative gourds. Not only does he enjoy carving the gourds, he also enjoys painting them as well. Simpson admits he can draw anything except people.

"The hobby seems to flow easily for him," said Ronnie's wife, Kathy.

When creating a new piece, Ronnie says he does not use a pattern or design.

"I just do whatever pops into my head," Ronnie said. "I also get a lot of ideas from the people I meet."

Ronnie also gets inspiration from craft makers at craft shows in the state. In a typical year, he attends around 12 shows, most of which are held in the spring and fall.

"My favorite part of craft shows is seeing people come to the show to look at others' crafts," said Ronnie.

Ronnie has received numerous blue ribbons for his entries at craft shows and has received the Best Reserve Award for an intarsia portrait of his dog, Taz Maria.

"I just enjoy doing it," Ronnie said. "Everyone who is retired needs something to keep themselves busy."

Ronnie's wife, Kathy, also believes it's important to keep busy after retirement and focuses on her hobby of jewelry making.

"I began making jewelry as something to do while my husband worked with his hobby," said Kathy. "For me, making jewelry is like eating popcorn. Once I start I don't want to stop."

Kathy uses pieces from old jewelry to create new pieces, and finds most of her needed materials at yard sales and flea markets.

"We go shopping for jewelry every month," Kathy said. "We often look around in Paragould and Jonesboro, but have shopped for pieces in Hardy and all around."

Kathy's hobby first started after her husband, Ronnie, attended the Toad Suck Daze Festival in Conway.

"He told me how popular hemp jewelry was at the event so I started making it," said Kathy, who admits that she is not a jewelry person, but enjoys creating something others will like.

"We would kill each other if we didn't have our hobbies," Kathy said in reference to her and her husband. "It allows us to have our own time."

Aside from the couple's individual hobbies, they also used their creative abilities to build a two-bedroom house in Memphis in 1973.

"We did everything except install the electricity," said Kathy, "and we must have done a good job because it's still standing."

The house took the couple one year and 10 months to complete.

"The day we moved in it was paid for," Ronnie said.

"We don't have enough sense to know we can't do something so we try it anyway," Kathy said.

The couple moved to Walnut Ridge in 2003 after retirement. Kathy (Kizziar), a Walnut Ridge native, served as manager of the purchasing department at Baptist East Hospital for 34 years in Memphis. Ronnie, a native of Jackson, Tenn., retired as a Haz-Mat instructor at DuPont where he was employed for 30 years.

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