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Frank Gray

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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
A grandfather clock made by a doctor sits in the Lutheran Heart Pavilion, very near the original location of the tree from which the clock was made.

Old tree stands tall at former birthplace

Ten years ago, when Lutheran Hospital was planning its Heart Pavilion off West Jefferson Boulevard, one doctor lamented that in clearing the land, some really nice trees were going to be bulldozed and ground to pulp.

Well, hospital officials told the doctor, if you want them, cut them down and take them.

So the doctor did just that. He contacted a forester who told him which were the most desirable trees, had the trees cut, and let them dry for a few weeks. Then he hired a man with a portable sawmill to cut them into lumber and haul the wood to Michigan to be kiln-dried.

In all, the trees – some more than 100 years old – produced about 2,000 board feet of walnut, oak and maple lumber.

So what happened to the lumber?

Let’s start by describing the doctor who harvested the trees: Andy O’Shaughnessy, a nephrologist, or kidney specialist. He talks fast, sticks to the point and doesn’t try to be witty. He also doesn’t describe himself as a patient man.

“My friends say I’m not patient,” he said. “If I want something, I want it today.”

But O’Shaughnessy said he remembered the original St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, where he received training. They had a giant grandfather clock there.

And that was where O’Shaughnessy got the idea. He’d use some of that wood he harvested to make a grandfather clock, three of them, actually.

Armed with plans from a Canadian company, he went to work.

O’Shaughnessy, though, is also a woodworker, and when you get into the woodshop, all impatience seems to disappear. You can be meticulous. If you make a mistake on a piece of wood, you can toss it aside and start over. Time flies.

Meanwhile, O’Shaughnessy hooked up with a retired doctor who was a master carver and took lessons.

Add it all up – the drying time for the wood, the carving lessons, meticulously cutting the wood in the wood shop, then the carving, the sanding, the staining, the varnishing, then finding the guts for the clock, installing the mechanism and then spending six months tweaking it so it runs just right and tinkering with the chimes so that the hammers hit not too hard, not too softly, but just right.

In all O’Shaughnessy spent nine years working on that grandfather clock.

Last month, the first completed clock was delivered to the Lutheran Heart Pavilion at the hospital, where it sits at the end of the long hall at the entrance, about 50 feet from the very spot where the tree that produced the wood once stood.

There are still two other clocks still in the works, one about 80 percent done and the other 90 percent done. One will eventually be delivered to Matthew 25. The last will sit in O’Shaughnessy’s home.

How long will it take to complete the last two clocks? It’s hard to say.

But hey, it’s only time.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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