“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.