Artisan David Dion lifts up his work to the Lord
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS David Dion, a talented artisan, loves working with his hands in his Saylorsburg workshop. These frames are a sample of the rustic natural look he loves to create.
While the elves are busy in Santa's workshop making toys at the North Pole, David Dion is busy in his Saylorsburg workshop.
Dion can make toys, but he creates for people of all ages by carving signs and making custom furniture.
He sings while he works and music is as much a part of the ambience of the wood shop as his beloved tools.
A sign that hangs in his wood shop reads, "Don't Touch My Tools-Beware-Don't Even Think About It!"
His children gave him the sign because they know his tools, some handed down to him through five generations, are as important to him as his family's stories.
His mom's side of the family comes from a little town called Bedonia in the Northern Alps in Italy.
"My great-great-great-grandfather traveled with a cart to fix shoes in northern Italy. I have some of those very tools. My family on my mom's side were all musicians and artisans. My great-grandfather came to America and was a chef. I was privileged to know both my great-grandparents. He lived to be 98 and she, 102," Dion says.
The four most important men of influence in his life are the Lord, his grandfathers and his father, he says.
His grandfather, Albert Anthony, was a strong presence in his life.
"He spoke five languages, played seven instruments and was in a band called the 'Yum Yums.' He met my grandmother when the band played at her 21st birthday party," Dion says.. "He made his own unique tools and became a steamfitter but did so many other things on the side."
Working alongside his grandfather helped him become confident in working with his own hands. Fortunately Dion lived within a bicycle ride away.
"I was always at his feet. I helped build his house in Glens Falls, N.Y., too. We dug out the footings and mixed the cement by hand," Dion said. "We spent tons of time together up there four years in all. And because I loved pancakes, growing up he called me 'The Pancake Kid.'"
As a young man his grandfather got his right index finger caught in a grinding wheel accident and ground it down. He never was able to normally use that finger again as he worked. Dion imitated his grandfather so much so as he learned how to work, that to this day, he never uses his right index finger either.
His father was a pharmacist and was "the most intelligent man I ever met in my life."
A World War II veteran of the Army Air Force who went to Rutgers University on the G.I. Bill, he lived a kind, giving sacrificial life of service to others.
His father's family comes from Normandy, France. The family's name was Gihion but in 1543, it was changed to Dion when his ancestors arrived in the new world. They became, among other trades, stone cutters who helped build the city of Quebec, Canada.
"My dad's parents were both from Canada and spoke fluent French. They would often break into French duets. I think it was what helped my dad be the great singer he was. My grandfather Dion read the classics to me and instilled the love of reading in me."
Dion cherishes handmade tools, especially two hand gouges that great-grandfather used to carve gunstocks and ice sculptures.
Dion's mother encouraged all the arts in her three children. She, too, was a gifted artist.
"I remember one summer she heard some of us say we had nothing to do, so she taught us all ceramics. There must have been 30 kids in our basement by the end of the summer."
He took art lessons in oils, acrylics and watercolors.
But his first job was working in the Johnson Free Public Library for $1.25 an hour in 1969.
"I loved books and reading. It was perfect for me. And they let me exhibit my artwork, too. I eventually became the exhibiting artist from mid-1971 to 1973."
He graduated from Hackensack High School in 1971 with art honors. He wanted to be a heart surgeon growing up but when he graduated from Bergen Community College, he was encouraged to pursue a career in Civil Service and started working in the U.S. Post Office in 1974 where he met his wife Mary of 11 years.
Dion is very proud of his children, David, Jr., 36, an electrician, and Nicole, 32, an accountant studying for her CPA, and his twin stepdaughters, Jessica and Melissa Geisel, 22, seniors in college as education majors.
Dion had 36 years of service with the postal service, retiring as postmaster from the Stroudsburg office in 2011.
It was then he began devoting full time to his love of creating things.
He paints, wood carves, does ceramics, sculpts ..."I do virtually anything artsy," he says. That includes sculpting faces on pumpkins, from cartoon characters to human faces. He carved artwork on 100-300 pound pumpkins this fall at Roba Family Farms.
Many items in the Dions' home display his craftsmanship such as the intricate carving he made on the bookshelves he built in his study. It also tells a story.
"The carving begins simply, but as it moves toward the center, it becomes more elaborate ... it expands and blossoms, just as our knowledge blooms and grows," Dion says.
Dion's Lighthouse Signs & Artworks specializes in handcrafted three-dimensional signage with gold leaf gilding, custom carved furniture, highly intricate wood projects, and artwork of every kind.
His unique project is a pair of two elaborate and intricate totem poles with a hand carved cedar sign jointed into the poles he did for Boy Scout Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Stillwater, N.J.
Faith an integral part
His most meaningful project is a hand-carved, gold gilded sign for his father's church.
"My dad loved his church, St. Henry's Roman Catholic Church in Averill Park, N.Y. I was very proud to donate that in honorable memorial of him."
His faith has been an integral part ofhis life. At one time Dion was studying toward becoming a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church in the archdiocese of Newark, N.J. He has studied Greek and most recently Hebrew from the University of Jerusalem.
"Religion has been a great release for both my musical and artistic abilities," he said.
He has had voice training, sang in a quartet and sang for Pope John Paul II at the Basilica in New Jersey. He often sings in his church, Cornerstone Community Church in Kresgeville.
When he began thinking about a name for his woodworking/art business, he decided on Lighthouse Signs and Artworks. His website and business cards have a verse: Psalms 18:2; "The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my keen and firm Strength in Whom I will trust and take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my Salvation, my High Tower." (Amplified Version).
It's his favorite verse. "There is a very old song that says in part, 'If it wasn't for that old lighthouse, this ship would be no more.' A lighthouse is a beacon, like Christ, of whom I proclaim. I want people to know I am a Christian business man."
A rendering of the Portland Head Lighthouse of Portland, Maine, lighthouse is on his cards and website.
"My grandparents, my mom, my sisters and I went to Portland, Maine in 1964. We spent so much time together, talking and fishing. I acquired my true love of rocky coasts, little fishing villages and lighthouses from that trip."
During the Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of a child born in humble beginnings, the son of a virgin and a woodworker, who followed in his earthly father's footsteps to become a woodworker himself. When Jesus entered into his public ministry, he set out to spread the Good News about his Heavenly Father.
Dion, also a woodworker, vocalist, artist, husband and dad uses the talents, influences and his creative abilities that have been given by God to spread the Good News about his Heavenly Father, not just at Christmas time, but all year long.