September 15, 2015 // 1:51 PM

Defying the Odds

Written by Trish Lauer

When I was asked to write a piece on Springwood (one of our skilled nursing households) resident Anita Geiger, I was more than excited. Writing is a passion of mine, and any chance to do so is a blessing. There was one small thing – I had never met Anita! The crazy thing? From moment one, it didn’t matter.

I met with Anita at her residence and from the onset she was open and, as I’d quickly learn, fascinating. Anita’s story is truly unique; she had been ill and hospice was called in. To get her matters taken care of, one of the things she did was give away all of her woodworking equipment. Then a funny thing happened: one day, the hospice workers told her that it wasn’t necessary for them to be there with her any longer. They left and Anita had a new lease on life. There was a problem, though. How was Anita going to get back to doing her woodworking?

She first discovered woodworking being done in Maryland and was immediately taken with it. With encouragement from her mom, Anita pursued her new interest. She asked the man she saw demonstrating his skills if he gave lessons and Anita, a PE teacher, began going to learn from him after school, making the long drive to and from his home in Delaware. She would soon discover the Ward Foundation and volunteered there. Doing so allowed her to learn from world class woodcarvers, each with their own styles and techniques. It wasn’t long before Anita culled what worked for her from each of her teachers and won a contest.

In the beginning, Anita described herself as a “teacher moonlighting as a carver” before focusing primarily on her talent after retiring in the 1980’s. One of the things that appealed most to her about Garden Spot Village was the wood shop, which she has been a part of since she moved here in 2000. In 2004 she became treasurer, a position she’d hold for a decade. The wood shop, she says, is more than just a hobby; she’s made lifelong, dear friendships as a result of her time there. The bonds that have formed extend past their little slice of wooden heaven – many of her friends stop by if they’re near just to say hello and see if Anita needs anything. Judging by the look on her face when telling me, this means more to her than words can convey. She’s truly touched by the fellowship from something as simple as a common interest, and that sense of community is invaluable – both to Anita and to Garden Spot Village.

As of late, given that all of her equipment is gone, Anita carves by hand with a carving knife. Her primary subject? Birds. When I asked her if she ever thought of trying out other animals and she replied with a simple no. Sure, she’s made a few other things in the past – she highlighted a beaver carved as a surprise specifically for a staff member – but birds are where her heart is. I wondered how she chose what bird to carve and found it interesting to learn that there’s no real rhyme or reason to how. Sometimes it’s a matter of wanting to surprise a friend with a gift of a personal carving of their favorite bird. Other times, she just sees a photo or pattern she likes and decides to make it. Her carvings have been given away as presents, auctioned off in the Fall Festival, and sold with the proceeds going to the Benevolent Fund.

My favorite part of my time with Anita was discussing how wood carving is seen primarily as a male oriented interest. Women aren’t traditionally seen as wood carvers and Anita is more than happy to defy that stereotype. And you know what? She should be! Her confidence, skill, and spirit are inspiring.

In the end, it wasn’t just the opportunity to write this piece that was a blessing; it was the chance to get to know such a kind and exceptional woman.