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October 3, 2012

Plattsburgh octogenarian a master builder

(Continued)

“We were married 54 years,” Hackel said. “My sister set us up at the time on a blind date. My wife and I got older. We decided to sell the house. We moved to an apartment on Haley Avenue.”

During his retirement, Hackel worked for Green Thumb, a national senior employment program, renamed Experience Works. He was a caretaker of the rest areas in Beekmantown and Rouses Point.

In his free time, he built a tug boat.

“I was going through a boating magazine. I saw the plans and started building it in the shed. It got so big I had to build a car port,” Hackel said.

He worked on the 15-foot wood-and-fiberglass craft for two summers. He named the tug “Hannah” after his granddaughter.

“I had it on Lake Champlain a couple of years,” he said. “I got too old. I decided to sell it to one of the partners of the Snug Harbor Marina. He bought it and took it to California.” 

His latest project is a vibrant red, yellow and black stagecoach, a lawn ornament for his daughter, who is about to become a grandmother again.

“I was going to make her a little red wagon,” Hackel said. “On the computer, I saw this model. I drew up plans from a picture on the computer. I started to build the front wheels. This is going to be bloody big.” 

He cut the wood out at his old place. The stagecoach’s door is adorned with a decal of an eagle and the American flag. Patriotism runs deep in the family. Three of his daughter’s four sons — James, Matthew and Andrew — are U.S. Marines.

“It’s weatherproof,” Hackel said. “The whole thing is covered with epoxy.”

He purchased the wood on June 16, and it took him 10 weeks to assemble it.

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