Finding Solace through Music (and Violin Building)

Here’s an inspiring story from the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal.

Leo Beaule lost his wife of 55 years to Parkinson’s disease in 2006.  Unsurprisingly, the transition to a life without her was a tough one. He  struggled with depression and loneliness, saying that “I didn’t know what to do with myself. …I didn’t go anywhere; I didn’t do anything.” But then he found an unusual way to stay busy:

Beaule had always found comfort in nature. He and his family frequently spent time at their camp in The Forks. He loved teaching his sons how to fly fish. He found cutting his own wood relaxing. So he walked through the woods again.

“I’ve always cut my own wood,” Beaule said. “I already had some wood around, and I’d see a piece and think, that’s violin wood. So I didn’t burn it. That’s when something in my brain just rewired itself.”

That’s when nature and music came together.

“I knew violins inside and out,” he said. “I took a piece of wood and made one after my wife died, and I’ve just kept making them.”

Beaule has since made 23 violins. He keeps them where he can see them in a cabinet, which he also built. He can remember where the wood came from for each violin. He plays each one to keep it in tune.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This man is my great uncle. And yes, I’m very proud of him.

Who wouldn’t be?

I’m not sure I ever actually met Monuncle Leo, but the gently, charmingly-accented sound of his voice brings vivid flashbacks of sitting in my great-grandmother’s house years ago and listening as my grandmother and her brothers talked. Quite an extraordinary family. (And also, an extraordinarily private one. I’m sort of surprised they got him to talk on camera. Must be growing relaxed in his old age. Or maybe just so excited about violins that he can’t help himself.)

Go read the whole thing; it’s really wonderful. I’m just repeating a few parts for for emphasis, though: Great-Uncle Leo has made 23 violins. TWENTY-THREE! He uses the patterns of Stradivarius and Guanerius, he says. But let’s not bury the lede on this one, people. He taught himself to make violins. And did I mention that he’s made TWENTY-THREE!

Two especially favorite quotes:

“I would say that Mozart is my favorite. Some are very difficult — more difficult than I can play. I play them anyway.”

And:

“The wood should be without knots. The knots are OK if it’s bird’s-eye maple.

Bird’s-eye maple is gorgeous. I really want to see that one.

That wonderful video and the equally-wonderful pictures are from the Sun Journal’s Amber Waterman.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.


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