Hand crafted with love

Tom and Molly sit on the seat Tom hand-crafted for Keitha's grave site using branches found at the cemetery.

Every Wednesday for the past 16 years, Tom Taft has bought his weekly fish and chips and made his way to his wife’s grave at the Castlemaine Cemetery with Molly, his little cavalier jack russell.

Most weeks he brings a fresh bunch of flowers, carefully arranging them in wooden vases he specially crafted from red gum posts, that sit on either side of his wife’s headstone.

Keitha died in 2007 and was laid to rest place in a peaceful bush block with enormous gum trees overlooking the cemetery.

Tom has hand-crafted a chair from the branches surrounding his wife’s grave, using the age-old techniques of English ‘bodgers’ to create a beautiful place to sit, listen to the birds, and remember.

“She would have loved this spot,” Tom said.

“She always told me she would hang around, that she would always be next to me. A million times she would tell me, ‘I’m never going to leave you’.

“I never believed in an after life, but I’m a believer now,” he said.

“I didn’t do well after she left, but I snatched it back and got going. I’ve made a lot of nice friends and I got Molly not long after she died and she’s been great. She’s never run away, even though we don’t have a front gate. She always just sits next to me.”

The pair’s love story began in 1959 when Tom moved to live in a hut on the Delatite River in Mirimbah to work at the timber mill.

On his way to the shops one Friday he saw a girl walking down the street and “that was it” he said.

He went back at the same time every Friday for a month, hoping to get another glimpse of her, to no avail. Then one Saturday morning, as Tom was making his way to the butcher shop, he decided to drop into the newsagents and check out the latest woodworking magazine.

“And there she was,” Tom said.

“She was a shop assistant at the newsagents.

“I had just bought a brand new grey and white FC Holden and I would wait out the front of the newsagency every Saturday at 12pm, when she knocked off, and offer her a lift home. For four weeks she replied, ‘no thank you’ and on the fifth week she said, ‘perhaps you can’.

“We were married in December 1962,” he said.

“Things changed in the timber industry in the 70s and Keitha had always wanted to have a shop, so when she got sick with rheumatoid arthritis, we moved to Maldon and opened a shop next to the bakery. We sold her crafts, needlework and drawings and my woodwork.

“I used to make these chairs in the style of the English bodgers, and I had one out the front of the shop in Maldon. I remember a bloke came all the way from Melbourne to see it. He said I was the only bodger in Australia. He didn’t buy the chair though!”

Tom is busy with his next project, carving a ballerina for his five-year-old great, great niece who recently took up ballet.