It’s the perfect time to follow your dream.
By Kathryn Marchi

     It is said that participating in a hobby or passion creates positive emotions, a sense of well-being and good physical health. If, by chance, it turns into a profit-making venture, that’s an added bonus.

     There are many satisfied retirees out there who have finally found time to pursue their passion or hobby. Some take an entirely different track from their career paths in retirement. An example is the man who went from managing a large bread company to a small shop in his backyard where he repaired and made custom golf clubs.

     John Dennis, a career Army officer, decided to pursue his hobby of woodworking and building construction after retirement.
Born in Winchester, Virginia, John spent his childhood at the feet of his grandfather, watching and learning about construction, from furniture to renovating houses. Apparently he inherited his grandfather’s talent, quickly learning about the tools and helping with the construction. They collaborated on one piece of furniture, and today some vertical saw marks around the carefully formed edges can still be seen. A four-year-old John had “helped.”

     After graduating from Randolph Macon Military Academy in Front Royal, Virginia, John went on to Virginia Tech and was in the corps of cadets for four years. He graduated in 1962 with a BS degree in industrial arts and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He married soon after and began his military career.

     John would spend the next 22 years working in the field of Army intelligence. Since many of his assignments would be in the Washington, DC, area, he and Jane bought a home in Bowie. This house would be the first of several over the years that would be renovated: Doors were cut out of walls to add flow between rooms, windows becoming doors, leading to newly constructed screened porches and basements were converted to recreation rooms.

     Throughout his military career, John still found time to enjoy his favorite pastime. When he wasn’t involved with tactical intelligence in Viet Nam for two tours, working in counterintelligence in Germany or strategic analysis at the Pentagon, John was either involved in woodworking or renovation projects. In Germany, he used the workshops on post to make furniture for his living quarters and converted a VW bus into a camper for ease of traveling in Europe with his family of four.

     Retiring in 1985, he decided to put his knowledge of construction and design to further use. He became a licensed contractor and began building custom homes on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where he and his family had settled. He and Jane purchased five and one-half acres and turned it into a small working horse farm — his wife’s dream. John actually designed and was the general contractor for their dream home, doing all of the interior work himself. He and Jane built a barn, outbuildings and fencing.

     John’s next path was to get his real estate broker’s license so that he could set up his own real estate and home improvement companies. He wore two hats on many days and was a happy, busy man. John was doing what he loved and supporting his family at the same time.

     Construction work does take a physical toll, so, in 2007, John retired from his home improvement business. He still consults on other projects and has renovated a newly purchased home. Giving his second career a personal touch, he recently gave each family member a piece of furniture that he made from an old cherry tree from the backyard of his childhood home.

     Not only did John turn his passion into work that he loved, he has left evidence of his talent in custom-built furniture and in every home he has built or renovated.

     As John has proven, our retirement years can provide us with the time we need to do something that we love Finding that sort of satisfaction is a goal that he has achieved with great success.

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