Cache County man restores wooden carousel to bring joy to children

Published: Saturday, Oct. 27 2012 10:35 p.m. MDT

A restored wooden tiger sits in Vean Woodbrey's workshop.

Mike Anderson, Mike Anderson, Deseret News

PETERSBORO, Cache County — A Utah man is restoring an antique carousel right in his front yard in hopes of giving children loving memories.

Vean Woodbrey is spending his retirement grinding away in his workshop, carefully shaping each giraffe, horse and lamb.

"Carousels have been in my blood for years," Woodbrey said, "and now I got one."

He purchased the hard-carved wooden carousel from a sell in Flathead Lake, Mont. The 1930s Allan Herschell model had been up for sale for more than a year.

"Not too many people are crazy enough to get something like this and try to fix it," Woodbrey said. "Craziness comes with age."

After a year and a half of work, the carousel is still in pieces. Each part has to be painstakingly restored to working condition. The wooden animals have to be restored and painted.

"There's not been one nut, bolt or screw that hasn't been rusted together," he said.

Woodbrey's interest in this hobby is deeply rooted.

"I used to live just a few blocks away from Liberty Park," he said. "I used to go around and gather up pop bottles, get money for the pop bottles, and I had money for a ride on a carousel."

Woodbrey said he was in tears when he heard the carousel burned down. It was a cherished part of his childhood.

"That's my purpose now, put some loving memories in some of these young kids," he said.

It's a hobby that may have helped keep Woodbrey alive. About two years ago, he was diagnosed with bone and prostate cancer.

"I hate to say it, but I kind of gave up for a while," he said.

Soon after being diagnosed with cancer, the project started to take shape.

"If you keep your mind busy on one thing, then it's not constantly concentrating on wasting my time, worrying about the cancer," Woodbrey said.

His cancer is now in remission, and he believes that time in the shop helped him keep fighting.

"I'm at home in the workshop," Woodbrey said. "I'm home doing anything with my hands."

Finishing the carousel will likely take a few more years. His biggest challenge in finishing this project is money. Buying parts alone could cost upward to $10,000. He's not fundraising. He said he just takes it day by day and asks for Lowe's or Home Depot gift cards for his birthday and Christmas from his family.

This father of 16, grandfather to 68 and great-grandfather to seven hopes to show those kids and others a part of his childhood that lives deep in his heart.

"Somebody asked me if it was ever going to pay for itself, and I said, 'Well there's two ways for my carousel to pay for itself. One's the money, and I'll never see that, but as soon as a child gets on this and has a good smile, it's paid for itself.' "

Email: manderson@desnews.com

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