Knife poised, Bruce Rothe stared intently at the gnarled piece of yellow cedar, examining the contours, the flaws, and the shape.
The cancer that lurked within him was far from his mind.
“Eagle,” he muttered to himself as a small smile lit his face.
“It will need grinding because it is so hard and the feathers will be tricky”.
Gradually, he started to work the wood with his myriad of tools and slowly a proud eagle emerged from what was discarded drift wood.
Rothe – master horticulturist, fishery expert, and teacher – had become a master carver.
What started as a diversion from illness six years ago has grown to a passion and a level of excellence that surprised his friends, even himself.
“I never knew I could do this,” says the Maple Ridge resident.
When you visit, he has rooms full of fish – of all species, in different settings, alone or in groups, hiding, darting, or leaping.
He painstakingly paints them exactly as they would appear in nature. He does caricatures of fish, including a Christmas version that he jokingly calls “Santa Cod.”
He has men’s faces carved in wood.
An orca provides a shade screen over his deck.
Sturgeon adorn his walls, hanging there, seeming to watch your every move.
You find rainbow trout, steelhead, perch, ling cod, walleyes, killer whales, and spawning salmon.
He even has a troll guarding his back garden.
Recovering from a recent bout of chemotherapy, Rothe announced that it was time to remove the old cherry tree in the back yard.
However, he didn’t simply cut it down.
Rothe took his old electric chain saw and in a few hours an owl slowly began to appear.
At first it looked rustic, but gradually it became clearer and clearer until it was so authentic that, he says, no birds would land in his backyard.
Brian Leslie says Bruce has shown friends his creative spirit.
“His carving and everything else he has done, epitomizes the notion of excellence,” adds Leslie.
“His passion and his perseverance show that, if you really strive to do your very best, no matter what life throws at you, you will find excellence.”