A great many hats for one life

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by Jackie Alfonso | May 4, 2009 • Mathematical prodigy, superb woodworker, Go master, equestrian, Petanque champion, raconteur, epicure, warm friend, and much to be missed

Lemonade Chronicles is a blog written by Jackie Alfonso, a local writer who is deeply concerned about food … and other issues.

Arthur Gropen died on Friday, May 1, after a long disagreement with pancreatic cancer.

Arthur was a friend, critic, and cohort in wood of my father. Arthur, the perfectionist, used many of the tools and techniques of Japan’s wood
workers, and built, rebuilt, and considered many changes in his own house based on the Japanese esthetic. Jack was quite different: as soon as he could see in the wood what the final object would be, he was done with that project, whether it was complete or not.

Obviously coming from utterly different compass points, they both enjoyed tremendously the feel of the wood, the depth that could be achieved in a simple tabletop, the revelation of the grain shaped by time and season. They both understood that the material they worked with would never again exist, as thoughtless development, changes in water patterns, the wants of people forever alter the places needed for Walnut, Butternut, Oak and Maple to reach the sizes they had at hand to work.

For many years we came almost to expect to see Arthur and his wife Trish Lewis, whenever we went to a new restaurant, especially a new Asian restaurant, and we were not often disappointed. Get- togethers at my father’s inevitably circled around new restaurants, woodworker shows, some new tool from Japan or New Hampshire, some newly discovered stash of old logs just waiting to be taken to the sawmill.

When we think of all the various types of Karass in which Arthur was a participant, the braid of connections is nearly endless.

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