For the love of Woodworking
Life-long carpenter builds life-size doll house for neighbor’s girls
GRAFTON – There isn’t much that Stanley Langowski hasn’t built out of wood in his nearly 90 years of living. This past winter, when neighbor Dina Perez was contemplating buying her granddaughters a life-size doll house, Stanley stepped in and offered to build one for her instead.
Dina and her husband Ricky Perez have lived next to the white stucco house that Stanley built for 16 years. Stanley built that house shortly after he and his wife Doris were married in 1949.
When Doris passed away about a year ago, the Perez family took it upon themselves to keep an eye on Stanley.
Dina, who works at Friendship, Inc., stops by every day to visit and prepares supper for him each evening.
“He loves pizza, so we order pizza every Friday night,” Dina said.
It was during one of those supper visits that the topic of the doll house came up.
“I told him that for Christmas I’d like to get my granddaughters a playhouse,” Dina said. “We were looking at a picture of it and he said, ‘why don’t I build it for them?’”
Stanley used a picture of the doll house that Dina had printed off the internet that she had planned to purchase at a store in Grand Forks.
The picture, on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper, was all Stanley needed for a “blueprint.” He said it took him about three months to complete, working on it a little bit at a time, almost every day in the workshop in his garage.
Stanley was born in Pulaski Township on Jan. 29, 1924 to John and Josephine Langowski. As a young boy his family moved to Minto. Stanley graduated from Minto High School and served in the U.S. Army as an ambulance driver in a medical battalion.
Stanley was in North Africa, the invasion of Italy and also arrived on Omaha beach in Normandy, France shortly after D-Day.
He also served throughout Europe and witnessed the horror of the Nazi concentration camps seeing the Dachau concentration camp first hand.
Upon returning to North Dakota in the summer of 1945, Stanley enrolled at UND as an engineering student. After one semester he quit school and took a job with Adamsen Construction in Grafton where he worked for 41 years.
“I remember my first day of work,” he said. “I had to shovel gravel all day long. That was tough.”
Stanley eventually became a construction supervisor and did finish carpentry work too. He supervised construction of several well known buildings in Grafton and the region including Grafton’s water treatment plant, Wells Fargo Bank, the Winter Sports Arena in Grafton and the hockey arena in Roseau, Minn.
After leaving Adamsen Construction in 1987, Stanley kept busy doing several carpentry related jobs including extensive work at Historic Elmwood in Grafton. He also worked for Brodeur Construction in Grafton.
Stanley said he became interested in building furniture shortly after returning from WWII and has been building things every since. His home in Grafton is filled with several pieces of furniture that he built himself. One of his earliest projects is an intricate oak coffee table that still resides in his living room.
“That’s one of the first things I made after I got my router,” he recalled.
Another piece is a television stand that is patterned after a jewelry cabinet Stanley made for his wife.
Stanley’s daughter Linda, who lives in Colorado, learned of the doll house project and offered to purchase dolls and furniture as birthday presents for Dina’s granddaughters Lizia, who will be six years old on Sept. 20, and Leah who turned three years old July 25.
“They really enjoy coming to see him,” Dina said. “Every time they come to visit they tell me they have to go see ‘Grandpa Stan’. He’s a very loving and caring person.”
Leah and Lizia’s mom, Lisa, said the girls are looking forward to playing with their present.
“They’re going to love it,” she said. “They’ve been asking for a doll house for a long time. They’re going to keep it and give to their friends and keep it in the family.”
Stanley says he keeps busy by exercising with stretch bands and eight pound dumbbells. He also takes walks everyday and likes to work in his garden. In addition to that, he attends mass at St. John’s Catholic Church every day. Stanley said he has no plans on slowing down when it comes to woodworking and is already planning his next project, a bookstand to hold his Bible and other heavy books.
Stanley said he can’t say enough about the Perez family and everything they’ve done for him, especially Dina.
“She’s my guardian angel,” he said softly, holding back tears. “She watches over me.”