An unassuming wood craftsman who put the finishing touches on some of the state's grandest buildings and staircases had his last earthly wish granted this month: a bird's-eye tour of his handiwork.
The view from a small helicopter a couple of thousand feet up may seem an unlikely perch for 78-year-old Bruce Roundy. But he couldn't think of a better way to see if all those clouds of sawdust and racket he'd made over the years amounted to anything.
"Looking down on all of it all at once, it looked small enough to fit in my garage," Roundy said recently after taking stock of his life's work and his life flying a loop from Woods Cross to North Ogden, south to the Kennecott copper mine and back. "Seeing it from behind that little bubble of glass, it kinda put everything in perspective."
Roundy, who has leukemia and a heart too weak to withstand the rigorous treatment fighting it would entail, spent most of his 34-year career with the century-old Granite Mill and Fixtures. Before that, at age 16, he laid railroad ties "at the pit" (Kennecott).
Over the years, he has molded the hand rails that wind through the bell tower at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. He also helped remodel the Manti temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the banisters in the twin staircases at either end of the building.
All the years of sawing, routing, sanding and bending wood into corkscrews passed before his eyes in less than an hour.
Roundy has literally given tens of thousands of Utahns a handhold, building banisters and newel posts to anchor them without the hint of a nail showing. His custom windows frame the outside world for elected officials and business leaders. He helped the past four occupants of the Salt Lake mayor's office keep their grip by building the bulletproof facade on the chief executive's desk.
He built the five map tables that are the centerpiece on each of the five floors at the City-County Building. He not only signed his name to his work, but also added some unique signatures to each. The 4-by-10-foot oak facia panels above the stage in Symphony Hall also have a unique aspect that he has put into all of his work.
"I just had a way of making each piece in a way that was memorable," he said, declining to give away his trade secret. "It's a silly little thing, but I found a way to make each project personal to me."
Wood has been good to Roundy, not so much in a monetary way, but in its nature. Every piece is unique, and when you get done you can stand back and say, "I did that, and it's going to be here a long time after I've gone."
Seeing his work in one fell swoop was a kind of thrilling, kind of scary feeling not unlike the one he got the day he was told his poor health put him beyond the help of modern medical interventions to treat it.
He has worked at and rendered that knotty piece of news into a worthwhile use as well: "I really see every day as a gift. I'm just using this time to catch up on my naps," he said, noting he's tired all the time.
He "monkeys" around in his shop at home and is carving a little "whittling, really." He's made a 3-inch-long pair of pliers from a single piece of wood that work and look machined by a computer. He's done a face of "old man winter" on a sagebrush root. "That wood is harder than the back of the boss's head."
His favorite kind of wood these days "is the kind still in the tree," he said.
He's in pain all the time, but he plans to keep going.
"I was supposed to not have made it to last Christmas," he said. "But I had an appointment with the doctor on the 26th, and when he came in I said, 'Ta Dah! I'm still here.' He just told me to keep doing what I'm doing."
His work is all through the old Tabernacle renovation on Temple Square. Nearby, it can be found in the Salt Lake Temple's east-side double doors. He restored them after "somebody decided to try to blow them off one day for who knows what reason; couldn't have been a good one. They're about as thick as a tree and solid oak, which helped limit the damage. They were the heaviest pieces I've had to work on by a long shot.
"Each one is as big as a Buick, and just turning one over took eight men, more if we could find them."
Roundy demurs when asked about being the go-to finish guy. "Oh, I guess there wasn't much we couldn't figure out, and I was pretty good at patching and matching or making something crooked that had been straight. Wait, did that come out right?"
Jody Davis, a chaplain with CareSource hospice who arranged the helicopter fly-over with the Dream Foundation, said Roundy is the kind of broad-beamed stalwart of a guy who has seen things from the ground up his entire life. His work shores up both the building and the spirits of thousands who will never know him, he said.
"Today was just a way to try to thank him for the time and care he took to make the space we inhabit solid and warm and things of beauty," Davis said. "It's the least we could do."
Roundy said he hasn't spent a minute thinking about what awaits on the other side. He's much more interested about what's in store for things temporal.
"Well, sometimes I think about it," he said, noting that whatever is over there, he hopes it feels like watching his granddaughter when she saw the sunlight coming through the living room window for the first time."The crystals hanging in the frame there made these little rainbow patterns on the floor just like they're doing right now," he said seated in his usual spot in the corner his small living room in Salt Lake. "And she went around pretending she was picking rainbows up and putting them in her pocket to take home with her. Some of that would be good."
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