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He was first drawn to the community because of its cordiality, and now it’s a trait for which he himself is famous.

Dick Backer and his wife, Pat, moved to Monarch Landing senior living community in Naperville almost six years ago. The retired Johnson Wax executive said the couple visited Monarch Landing several times and were always struck by its “very cordial environment. I call this a Midwest environment. We just felt comfortable here. Other places we had looked at didn’t come across like that.”

Bringing a longtime and very beloved hobby with him to the community, Backer became a member of Monarch Landing’s wood and hobby shop. “When we lived in Naperville, I had a nice wood shop in my basement. When I retired, I started building up my equipment and made things. I was happy to be able to keep doing so when we moved here. We have an unbelievable workshop here; you couldn’t ask for a nicer one. You name the tools, and we’ve got them,” he said.

Backer is self-trained at woodworking. The items he’s created include liturgical furniture for several churches and schools. Among his proudest projects are two desks he built for his grandsons.

When word got out at Monarch Landing about his talent for woodworking, Backer said his fellow-residents started asking him for help in repairing and refinishing their furniture. “Word travels fast. And I’ve been fortunate to be able to accommodate people when they have a situation. It keeps me out of trouble,” he quipped. His willingness to help has meant he’s had a lot of projects…ostensibly keeping him out of a lot of trouble.

Backer won’t accept payment for his work. “People are really appreciative though. I have done some major projects, and I guess people are pleased, so I encourage them to make donations to the wood shop. It’s truly a goodwill offering. There are no strings attached, and I didn’t have any idea of what the donations are,” he said. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that over the course of last year, donations totaled $675 for equipment and supplies. Any excess funds, he said, will be given to the Monarch Landing’s Benevolent Care Fund.

Late last year, Backer was surprised by a fundraising award built, appropriately, from scraps of wood and hardware, by his fellow woodworking aficionados. He proudly displays the work of art recognizing him for his talent…and cordiality. “It was a nice gesture and a big surprise,” he said.

Read the story as it appears in the Chicago Tribune.