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Mark Odland sits in front of the headboard that he hand-crafted in his Detroit Lakes wood shop just recently. He says he once made three complete bedroom sets for the Twin Cities home of one of his daughters. Vicki Gerdes/Tribune

Retired doctor crafts beautiful furniture

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Mark Odland has had many professions in his life: At various times, he has worked as a professional musician, served in the U.S. Navy, been employed as a meteorologist and practiced medicine.

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But it wasn't until relatively late in his working life that Odland discovered the hobby that would become his passion: woodworking.

Since he discovered the craft roughly 40 years ago, the retired Detroit Lakes physician has constructed as many as six to eight pieces of handcrafted furniture per winter, though he's slowed down some in the last few years.

"I can't move very fast now," he said, noting that a project that once would have taken him a couple of days to complete can now take as many as 10 days from start to finish.

When he first started woodworking, Odland would spend between six and eight hours a day in his shop adjacent to the garage outside his Detroit Lakes home.

Now, he typically goes to the shop for "an hour to an hour and a half" each day. "That's about all I can handle," he said.

His wife Ruth passed away three years ago -- after 65 years of marriage -- and for about four years before that, she had lived at Emmanuel Nursing Home, after being diagnosed with dementia.

Earlier in their marriage, Ruth had also begun to suffer the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, which is why Mark felt the need to take up a hobby that would keep him closer to home.

"She couldn't go fishing with me anymore," he said, with a sad smile. "I needed something to keep me busy."

He credits former Detroit Lakes industrial arts teacher Howard Tyberg with giving him the skills to pursue his new hobby, and he continued to learn new techniques through woodworking magazines.

Plus, he said, "I own just about every piece of (woodworking) equipment there is."

Whereas some men might spend their leisure time drinking and smoking, Odland said, "I don't drink and I don't smoke."

Instead, his time and money have been spent buying woodworking equipment and wood for constructing his various pieces, many of which now grace the homes of his four children, six grandchildren and many friends and family members.

"I make them primarily for family and friends," he said. "It's been a lot of fun."

Though he still owns his house in Detroit Lakes, Odland has called The Madison home since January of last year.

"I have a nice home here in town, but I'm alone (his children all live elsewhere now), and I wasn't eating properly... and though I didn't know it, I was a little depressed," he said.

"I didn't have anyone to talk to but the TV."

Since moving to The Madison, however, he has found plenty of friends to converse with.

"We're going to have bingo this afternoon," he said, but added that "it's the coffee and conversation that follows" which he looks forward to the most.

"Everybody who lives here is very congenial and very thoughtful," he added.

And he also loves the view outside his window and balcony, which overlook a small wooded area.

"I love the woods," said Odland, adding that he enjoys watching the wildlife, though he hasn't seen any larger woodland creatures than the occasional bird or squirrel.

Though he has settled in comfortably at The Madison, Odland still manages to spend at least a little time out at his wood shop every weekday.

His latest creation is a headboard that sits atop the bed in his bedroom, between two night stands adorned with uniquely crafted lamps that were also his creations.

Most of his best pieces, however, have now been claimed by his children, said Odland with a smile.

"I still do it because I love it -- it just takes me a little longer, that's all," he said. "It gets in your blood."

And he's also looking forward to a June fishing trip to Lake of the Woods with friend Mike Lickiss.

"I like fishing out on the open water," he said.

"I'm looking forward to it."

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers and editor of MN Boomers magazine for the past 13 years. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 847-3151
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