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Retiree Devotes Time to Creating Items for Others

Jan 28, 2016 10:47AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Kelly Cannon | kelly@mycityjournals.com

Murray - Looking at Charles Comstock, one would never know the 83-year-old was in declining health. His movements are deliberate, his voice is clear and precise and his pleasant personality is infectious. But probably the most surprising thing about Comstock is he is a talented artist, creating wooden boxes, sculptures and other intricate works of art. He doesn’t do it for money or praise. He gives away most of his work. 

His journey of creation started eight years ago when leadership in his church asked him to help with service projects. However, his poor health caused him not to be able to follow through.

“I would commit, but then I couldn’t fulfill it and that bothered me,” Comstock said. 

What Comstock found he could do is make wood boxes, fill them with candy and give them to people in his neighborhood as gifts. He retired from working at Salt lake Dental Laboratory and so was used to working with his hands. 

“I never had any lessons,” Comstock said. “I just learned how to do it.”

Comstock estimates he’s made over 200 boxes, each one different and given for a special occasion or a time of bereavement. 

“Anybody that I could cheer up with a box, I made them a box,” he said.

He then moved on to making canes. When he entered into hospice for his health, a nurse pointed out a cane he was using. After explaining he had made it himself, the nurse asked if he could make more for the people she worked with. Comstock then made between 20 to 25 canes. He then made more, always keeping one in his car to give to someone in need. 

One day, he saw a man struggling to walk into a grocery store. He walked up and gave the man a cane he had made. The man attempted to pay Comstock but he refused any money.

“You can’t pay me because then it’s not service,” Comstock said.

After that, Comstock began collecting hobbies. He learned how to quilt, make more intricate boxes and eventually sculpture. His first sculpture was of a dog he made out of clay and would later have bronzed. He’s also created busts of Native Americans. One piece he created ended up winning at the state fair. 

One piece he is truly proud of is a bust of Jesus Christ. However, the bust is of Christ in the Jewish tradition with shorter hair and a plain face rather than the beautiful, long-haired renaissance-inspired tradition. He ended up winning third place at the Murray fair for the bust. 

Perhaps the most inspiring work Comstock creates are intricate metal eggs. He began making them for his wife, Bonnie, for their anniversary. Each one takes about a year to make and are decorated on the outside with coils of metal and different colorful stones. When the eggs are opened up, inside are small porcelain flowers or animals Comstock has also created. A collection of those eggs won first place at the state fair and the Creative Arts Theme Award. 

The only sign of Comstock’s declining health is in the shaking of his hands and the occasional wince of pain. About two years ago, he fell and broke his ribs. He said he went into a decline rapidly after that, almost losing his life. He currently has leukemia of the red blood cells, arthritis, scoliosis, fibromyalgia and congestive heart failure with an artificial valve. Comstock confessed there isn’t a moment when his pain isn’t below a three on the pain scale. However, when he’s working on his hobbies, he feels better. 

“If I can get my pain down and I can get to my hobbies, I can usually get my pain down another number,” he said.

However, Comstock isn’t slowing down. He is currently teaching himself to draw. Though he complains he’s poor at drawing Native American faces, there are pieces he’s created that look strikingly like their subject, like Thomas S. Monson and Jeffrey R. Holland from the leadership for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also teaching himself to doodle. But true to his past, he gives away most of his work.

“I don’t want to leave this world without helping other people,” he said. 

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