A Love for Carpentry

BG Faber chair blog
In addition to refinishing furniture, Neil has also made about 15 chairs like this one over the past several years for his grandchildren as well as for others’ grandchildren.

Bristol Glen resident, Cornelius (Neal) Faber, is a man whose love of carpentry never fades.  Although long retired, that hasn’t stopped him from keeping his hands busy sanding, cutting, refinishing and woodworking worn tables, chairs and benches into revitalized pieces of beautiful furniture.

Neal and his wife of 71 years, Norma, have settled in quite nicely since moving to Bristol Glen in April 2014. “Well it was hard to get used to, first because we always had a house. I never lived in an apartment, but we’re getting accustomed to it now.”

Shortly thereafter, Neal noticed the tables in the County Café. He spoke with Executive Director Sarah Ur about refinishing them and then tackled them one at a time. “People say, ‘What are you doing all this work for? You’re supposed to be retired.’ I want to be busy. I don’t like just sitting here. That drives me crazy.” The residents were amazed with the way the tables looked afterward, wondering if they were brand new.

Neal learned his carpentry skills after being discharged from the Navy in 1945 where he served as a gunner’s mate on supply ships, delivering supplies to naval bases across the seven seas during World War II. He initially worked as a cab driver in Paterson before landing a job at a construction company. Since all the returning service men and women were seeking trade jobs, Neal figured this construction job was a good opportunity to get some on-the-job training. Here he was able to learn all aspects of home construction. Eventually, an uncle starting a construction business invited Neal to work with him. “That’s where I started to learn carpentry. There was always so much work around.”

His carpentry success allowed Neal to pursue his dream of building and owning a roller skating rink. Neal met Norma in Paterson when they were teenagers. “I met my wife in a roller skating rink — we were roller skaters.” They dated for a while and kept in touch after Neil joined the service. They married in 1943 while Neil was on an overnight pass from being stationed in Brooklyn, but their honeymoon proved short lived, as Neal was shipped out two days later.

They lived in Wantage, Sussex County, as Neal grew up in the country. “I always had it in my mind that I wanted to own a roller skating rink. So finally, I saved enough and built the Hampton Roller Rink.” Their children all became interested in skating. “At one time all my children were NJ State champions. My youngest daughter, at age nine, was a national champion.” Neal ran the roller rink for about 10 years before insurance costs became too great and he sold it. Consistent with a trend, a lot of roller rinks in New Jersey experienced the same insurance challenge.

After running the roller rink, he went back to the building business again — residential construction. Neal and Norma went to live part time in Florida for 10 years then returned to Sussex County in 1996.

After finishing the tables in the Country Café, Neal noticed that the outside benches needed a facelift and offered to restore them. Fellow residents, Bill Cole and Ed Guzma, helped Neal paint the benches after he repaired them, a total of 16 benches at last count.
A lot of residents took notice of Neal’s skills and asked him for help in fixing some things. Neal eventually became so in demand that he needed to decline requests. Although he likes to keep busy, Neal’s free time was becoming non-existent.

Neal and Norma are happy to be at Bristol Glen. “Everything is fine. We know this is the place for us. We’re here for the duration.”