Blind Carpenter wins award from This Old House Magazine

by luke on July 3, 2011

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – A hand grenade claimed Dean Pedersen’s sight in the Vietnam War, but it didn’t stop him from pursuing a career in carpentry.

Nearly 40 years later, Pedersen, a Valley City Native and owner of Pedersen Wood Craft, is making national news for his ornate work as part of This Old House Magazine’s 2011 Reader Remodel Moxie Awards.

    Dean Pedersen
    Dean Pedersen demonstrates his sanding process in his shop, which he calls the “Pedersen Studio.”
    Pedersen is a blind carpenter from Valley City.  – Chris Franz / The Forum


Deborah Snoonian, senior editor of This Old House Magazine, said the magazine was looking for stories showing fortitude and creativity.

“Dean falls squarely in that category,” she said. “He didn’t let his disability stop him from doing carpentry.”

Pedersen recently helped refinish his son Matt’s house that was built in 1909. The process that took about eight months was what initially got the attention of This Old House Magazine, Matt said.

“I had submitted my house for some online contest through This Old House Magazine to see if it would be one of the top remodeling projects, and it made it toward the top, but it ended up not winning,” he said.

“But when I submitted the information about it, one of the things that caught (the magazine’s) interest was that dad is blind and had done all this work. That is why they then chose dad for one of the other awards, so my house didn’t win, but my dad did.”

Equipped with special tools, including a table saw that will automatically shut down if it makes contact with human skin, Pedersen has been building and refinishing a number of pieces, from furniture to his son’s fireplace mantel.

During his rehabilitation from 1969-70, Pedersen attended workshops on different careers, and although he played around with the idea of going into an automotive career, Pedersen said he’s glad he went with carpentry instead.

“I enjoyed (woodwork) because you kind of do your own thing as far as what you want to make and those types of things,” he said. “Back in those days, I’d worked on cars, too, and I’m glad I didn’t stick with that because of the changes there have been in the auto industry as far as mechanics and that kind of thing go.”

In addition to the workshops, Pedersen also went through blind training. From the training, Pedersen said he received an important piece of advice from his counselor, who had been blind since birth.

“He said, ‘Dean, if there’s something you can’t do, don’t blame it on your lack of sight; blame it on the lack of training, because there isn’t much a blind person can’t do.’ ”

To this day, Pedersen continues to embody this message, his wife, Betty, said.

“The more you’re around Dean, you don’t even think that he can’t see,” she said.

Article By: Emma Murray, INFORUM


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