OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

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OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by keilg1 » Sat Dec 04, 2021 3:18 pm

Based on the recent announcement that LVA’s role in the hobby is transitioning, and having his explicit approval, I’m honored to share the following story for you to learn a bit more about the man, his lovely partner, and how the man who gave so much of his time and life to us was moved by an unusual gift.

First a bit of context. John Baumgart has been kind enough to field a lot of my questions about coins I’ve been unable to identify. Our conversations have led to numerous submissions to LVA, resulting in 8 discovery coins in my name. These results, uplifting and fun as they’ve been, really don’t convey the amazing energy and kindness that I experienced. In other words, it’s not just what JB and LVA have done, but how.

Like many of you likely were, I was so moved to hear of Marilyn’s passing earlier this year. I’d learned a little bit about her from others, but never had the privilege of meeting her in person. My professional life revolves around chronic pain, trauma and suffering and I can say that we are never immune to life’s hardships – whether they happen to us directly or to those around us. I also know that the simplest act of kindness and compassion can make the world of difference for others when they’re going through a difficult time.

The death of a long-time partner is definitely one of these times.

I, therefore, decided to include a gift to the man who’d gifted so much to me in the past when I was submitting a recent shipment. He knew nothing about it, and likely he wouldn’t be able to say who the heck “Gary Redfeather” is… but I was raised to not let a few minor details derail what I believed would be a welcomed experience.

I’ll share a copy of the letter I sent to him and his responses. First, you might want to grab a good drink and settle in a bit as this is likely to be a bit longer than the normal OT posts.

Here’s what began our conversation:
Dear Leroy,

First, my sincere condolences to hear of Marilyn’s passing. Words will never fully capture how much we want to stand with one another in adversity, but how impotent we feel when we try. Often we need to trust that our heartfelt words we can chose will offer up some comfort. From what I’ve heard from the VAMWorld and SSDC discussion fora, she was quite the lady who brought many people joy and happiness. I hope the innumerable memories you formed during your years together will continue bringing you joy that only sharing a life with someone can bring.

While I’m submitting a few coins for you to review (details below), I wanted to give you a special gift that might serve as a reminder that we can see beauty in the midst of trauma.

The enclosed art is a hand-carved burl bowl that I collected from a tree in Wyoming. Burl (or burr) is a reaction of a tree to an insult – be it a parasitic infection or in reaction to some toxin the tree took up through its roots. Mostly, burl are cancers of the tree that show up like cancers can in humans: as ‘bumps’ along the bark (like moles or skin cancers on us), or outright tumor growths that look like ‘blobs’ either throughout or within the tree. Any living and dividing tissue can become cancerous (as we all know). Burl often are found in the root balls of trees as that’s where the most active growth occurs (the root system being the most active and the most exposed to toxins in the soil and water), but they can happen anywhere – the trunk, the branches or the tips…

The burl formation is the tree’s natural reaction to something traumatic – the tree often fighting whatever the trauma is in an attempt to ‘wall it off’ from the rest of the plant. This trauma can kill the tree for sure, but if it doesn’t it can be harvested off helping to save the rest of the plant. This is akin to “cancer surgeries for trees.” This is what I do in my spare time: I’m a tree cancer surgeon who then takes the burl and carves them into stunningly unique creations. Creations that are brought about because of the trauma, not despite it. Beauty because of trauma. And when the burl gets used for another purpose – like to hold car keys, flower petals, or other mementoes – it shows there can be life after death (the death of the branch, for example).

I hope you accept this gift as one that helps remind you that there is, indeed, life and beauty after trauma. Uniquely designed by nature and me, and appreciatively gifted to you.

Now, on to another passion we share: VAMs and potential discovery coins!

Before sharing his replies, I thought it beneficial for you to see what one of these bowls looks like:
Photo 11-04-2018, 11 44 26.jpg
Photo 11-04-2018, 11 44 26.jpg (82.26 KiB) Viewed 3273 times
Now, his responses, in his own words:
LVA response Sep 2021.JPG
LVA response Sep 2021.JPG (170.36 KiB) Viewed 3273 times

I then asked him if he wouldn't mind me sharing this information with the VAM community as I didn't want to presume such information should be made public. He thought the request would be fine, and added a bit more of their wonderful story:
LVA response Nov 2021.JPG
LVA response Nov 2021.JPG (175.69 KiB) Viewed 3273 times
Thus, you can see both LVA and Marilyn experienced their own versions of trauma… both were impacted… and both grew because of their experiences. Importantly, they grew together as well as individually.

My hopes in sharing this story and information is that you can perhaps see your own traumas as experiences that have changed you – for the better. We’re all scarred, scared and tattered – we all share our own versions... completely unique to us, but something that connects us all as one. We’re all in this together if we so choose.

Marilyn is already missed but not forgotten. Hopefully not soon, but LVA will reach the ultimate place we all do. I’m honored to have helped him in my small way to make that time a little more beautiful.

Thanks for letting me share a bit of this with you. Hopefully future VAMmers will be able to connect more deeply with the hobby by learning a bit more about the lady behind the man behind the hobby.

With all my appreciation and wishes of health and happiness to you all.
Gary Redfeather, PhD, RPh


Click https://gjkeil2-82005.medium.com/our-lo ... 485d6cf0a5 to read the backstory of my surname change

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by Kurt28 » Sat Dec 04, 2021 11:54 pm

I can appreciate the warmth of a gift made of wood.
As I assumed the role of taking care of aging parents I had the opportunity to recover a large broken limb from their maple tree.
Cut stacked and aged, it proved useful.
A few years later when it was painfully apparent that this would be our last Christmas together, I made almost a dozen knives. One for every member of the family. And shod them with the maple from Dad's front yard.
I still have enough of the wood to accommodate the next generation.
Perhaps it is a family tradition as I still occasionally use the kitchen knife my Grandfather crafted over a century ago.
Wood is good.
Thank you for gifting to Leroy, and thank you for sharing the story.
Knives.jpg (142.81 KiB) Viewed 3230 times

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by ...kenny » Sun Dec 05, 2021 1:10 am

Wow....All are beautiful pieces of craftsmanship. Engravers do much the same thing with the end result being a coin. Something to think about. Gentlemen, Thank You for sharing...kenny
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my.........Ahh........Uhmm........something, something, something..... :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by morganman » Sun Dec 05, 2021 2:08 am

:ugeek: For those of us far away miles ways & not being privy to these
personal stories, it is with great appreciation you provided this gift
of story to us all here. Most of us had no clue.
I often thought it simply crazy that anyone person could maintain
and grow such detailed knowledge, as i admit to being a good
businessman but terrible fine details guy, hence why i have let
others here to discoveries etc
Thanks to all here that have helped to make VW the wealth of info
it is today.
Thanks LVA & may god bless

The tech dinosaur Scott

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by DHalladay » Sun Dec 05, 2021 5:19 am

I am heading to bed tonight with a huge smile on my face, having finally read this thread – but with a massive smile in my heart. The kindness, the warmth, the caring, and the sharing by folks on VAMworld is precious beyond words. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Last edited by DHalladay on Sun Dec 05, 2021 3:24 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by blh74 » Sun Dec 05, 2021 5:23 am

Great of you to share your story. I learned a lot about burls. Thanks very much.

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by Bigbub » Sun Dec 05, 2021 6:11 am

Thank you for sharing, but most of all caring. Your article about your interactions with Leroy that went beyond VAMming was just what I needed to read to start this holiday season.

I'm not sure why, but in my experience people who are willing to spend their time researching and learning about what interests them, as well as being willing to share their knowledge with others, are the people I most like to be around. I find this quality manifests itself in broad areas of interest, not just collecting.

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by Namvet69 » Sun Dec 05, 2021 11:38 am

Thanks for sharing your story with LVA in his time of mourning. Gratitude and random acts of kindness are important to me as well. Happy holidays. The hunt continues. Peace Roy

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by keilg1 » Sun Dec 05, 2021 2:04 pm


Stunning knives - wow! Well done and what a treasure to have. I'm sure your family were moved by the gesture and the quality of what you produced.

Thanks for sharing and for chatting with me in years past. Folks like you, Bert (@blh74), and many more keep me hopeful there will be a future for our world.


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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by messydesk » Sun Dec 05, 2021 5:48 pm

What a great thread! We are, indeed, a family.
Welcome to the VAMWorld 2.0 discussion boards. R.I.P. old VAMWorld.

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by crabscrape » Sun Dec 05, 2021 10:07 pm

Gary, This is one of the best encounters I have read here. We both go back years of dealing and collecting. What and amazing tribute you had with Leroy. Thank You!

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Re: OT: Leroy, Marilyn and a burl bowl - a tribute to multiple beautiful lives

Post by vamsterdam » Mon Dec 06, 2021 4:33 pm

I had not heard the growths called burls before. I had always thought they were a form of cancer, as the look like abnormal cell growth. I called them tree cancer(an oversimplified term used while hiking). We see them quite often and some are quite large. It looks s nice that you could make something special from something usually quite ugly.
Marilyn was quite a gem. Very sweet, gracious, engaging, a very good cook, prone to hospitality, kept a very nice, warm, friendly home, dressed very well, and made people feel welcome. I was honored to have eaten with her and leroy several times, and hung out with them and the dogs.
I may have mentioned it before but i became acquainted with marilyn though collectors clearinghouse long, long ago. She listed my first discovery piece, the 1967 ddo kennedy, which became fs-103. It appeared in collectors clearinghouse in 1985. It was no ordinary doubled die either. Very, very strong, and really bizarre. Anyway, the point is, marilyn put it in her weekly column and i still have the copy. On one of my trips to go see them, i brought the article and asked marilyn if she remembered it and she did! Out of all of those weekly columns, she remembered it.
I was really amazed when i saw leey at the funeral. He was so bright, and cheerful. He had just lost someone who was so king, intelligent, gracious, hospitable, helpful, and so much more but he could stand there rejoicing at what he had had, not what he had lost. It was an amazing sight. And in spite of covid and all that, we exchanged hugs. It was a privilege to be there. I still have my pictures and the memories of hanging with leroy and marilyns son john(he and i have been friends for quite awhile).

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