When the state of California finally decided it was time for Paul Habblewaithe to hang up his truck keys for the final time, he needed something to do.
In his mid-70s at the time, and well passed when you aren’t supposed to be driving a big rig any longer, Habblewaithe moved to Alabama and got on as a county worker. He needed something to do.
So, he worked for Limestone County until his health failed, his wife passed and he was forced to consider his next move. He found it when his daughter, Diane ????, suggested that he consider moving to Yukon. That was about 10 years ago.
Today, at 87, Habblewaithe still can’t slow down. And what he does helps transform a senior living neighborhood.
“This is just a hobby,” Habblewaithe said as he paints bricks outside his home for his flower beds.
That hobby is building planters. Some are elaborate, such as the steam engine that sets on the west side of his home. Others are basic. Either way, it is something to keep busy.
“It’s a reason to get up in the morning,” he said.
Habblewaithe has lived in the Autumn Ridge neighborhood for about three years.
In that time, he has built a planter that resembles a steam engine, one that looks like a caboose and several basic plants for neighbors.
He is currently working on two projects … a locomotive and a gondola, which is an open topped rail car.
“When they are done,” he said, “they will all fit together.”
Most of the materials are donated by a local fence company, whose owner allows him to pick through the scraps.
He builds most of his projects in a workshop at his daughter’s house.
The projects can take anywhere from days to months to complete. But they are fascinating to look at.
“I am not a professional carpenter by any means,” he said. “I don’t build anything here as an example of workmanship. It is just planters.”
But those planters come from his own designs. There are no blueprints.
“I can’t put anything on paper. It’s all up here, and a lot of it has to do with what (materials) I have available,” he said.
Some things are bought, such as the rubber wheels that make the steam engine and trailer roll a bit easier than the wooden wheels he began with. But even those are inexpensive.
“I am 87 now and my age kind of limits what I can do, but I get a kick out of this,” Hebblewaithe said.
And whatever his next project is tends to draw his fans.
“My neighbors, the majority of them, they want to see what I am up to next. I just try to comply with the rules here,” he said.
Those same neighbors also ask him to build for them. Whether it is a trellis or a planter, the only cost involved is the purchase of the materials that are needed.
It’s something to do, he said.
Dianna McEvoy, who is the manager for Autumn Ridge, said Hebblewaithe is very helpful for residents.
“He keeps our community looking fabulous. He is always willing to lend a helping hand for anyone who needs help. He is an all-around good guy,”McEvoy said.
Hebblewaithe said he is just trying to do what he can.
“Some people look forward to retirement. I didn’t. I loved what I did,” he said.