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Woodward residents make handmade casket for brother

February 26, 2017

WOODWARD, Okla. (AP) — It was just a statement made between two brothers.

About a year and two months ago Chris and Donald Hobbs were spending time together in the way brothers do, working quietly shoulder to shoulder, breathing the same air, drinking the same brand of beer.

“It was Christmas before last and I was building gun cabinets out of cedar and he saw what I was doing and said, ‘I like this. When I die just build me a casket out of this,’” said Chris Hobbs of Woodward.

And so since Feb. 13 around 4 p.m. Chris Hobbs spent 36 hours doing just that for his brother who died suddenly over the weekend.

Without stopping, Chris and his other brother Richard Hobbs labored, honed, sanded and shaped cedar wood into a one of a kind casket so that in some way, a part of him could accompany his brother one last time on a journey he couldn’t take with him.

On Feb. 16 in Woodward about 100 mourners and family gathered to lay Donald R. “Duck” Hobbs to rest in the handmade cedar casket his brothers made for him, Woodward News (http://bit.ly/2m54Rn9 ) reports.

According to the staff at Billings Funeral Home, it’s only the second handmade casket they have ever had presented for the burial of a family member.

The work was hard but meaningful and a way for Donald’s brothers to work through their grief, Chris Hobbs said.

“You know, I guess some people cry and others get angry or say angry things and I build with wood,” he said. “For me, I guess this is the best way for me to love my brother.”

The casket was made with locally harvested red cedar logs. Years earlier the brothers had worked together harvesting the wood and kept it for the last couple of years in Chris Hobbs’ sawmill at his home southwest of Woodward.

“It worked out well because we had the wood right there in the mill because we had harvested it and it was just there curing all this time,” Chris Hobbs said.

He began his labor of love just hours after he and his family had stood by the bedside of Donald Hobbs and said their final goodbyes at AllianceHealth in Midwest City. Hobbs had succumbed to a sudden cardiac arrest. He was 50-years-old.

“We had gone on Monday to Billings Funeral Home to make plans and then I called Glenn to ask if I could build his casket and he said that we could,” Chris Hobbs said.

When he came home, he started immediately with the help of Richard and many other family members, his wife Becky Hobbs said.

“There was a lot of love that went into that,” Becky Hobbs said.

Chris began by picking the logs he and Donald had harvested together. He used the mill to saw the logs into boards and then began the process of perfecting each board, measuring, cutting and then fitting each board almost seamlessly together. He found three rustic crosses that had adorned walls in his brother’s home to affix on the lid of the casket as well as each end, at his brother’s head and his feet.

The scent of cedar filled the Billings Funeral Home chapel as mourners came to pay their last respects. Many commented on the crosses that were the final art added to the cedar casket.

“Those were crosses he had and really liked,” Chris Hobbs said.

At around 2 p.m. on Feb. 16, family and friends loaded the handmade casket onto a horse drawn hearse provided by 1,000 Hills Cowboy Church of Woodward.

Under a cerulean sky and a warm south wind, friends and family gathered at Elmwood Cemetery Thursday afternoon and told their favorite stories about a man who loved his wife of 17 years Shena, the out of doors, the grandchildren he liked to call “turkey butts” and finally spending time hunting, fishing and admiring the woodworking skill of his “baby brother” who adored his oldest brother.

“He has always been my hero,” Chris Hobbs said.

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Information from: The Woodward News, http://www.woodwardnews.net

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