Craftsman in The County
Recovering from a hip replacement recently, Stephen Boody’s friends called to tell him the good news. They had written his name in for town selectman of New Sweden, and he won.
For Boody, it’s one more page in a life’s tale full of stories. He turns 64 this year, and has put in a good 40 years working for C.B. Fisk crafting pipes for pipe organs by hand. Now, with retirement on the horizon, the organ pipe gods have looked down upon him with good favor—he says he has enough work to keep him busy for the next four years.
When he’s not rolling lead, he’s behind the wheel of a school bus, keeping a close eye on the youth of New Sweden. He teaches violin to students young and old alike and plays gigs all over The County, including with the Northern Maine Chamber Orchestra.
Peeking into Boody’s window at night, you might catch him blasting Carole King as he works. The glow of his workshop and the strains of “I Feel the Earth Move” pour out into the woods that hide the house he built on a mostly dirt road.
“There’s something magical about…slaving away at this bench and creating stuff and then seeing it in the building playing,” said Boody. “There’s a year of my work and you can hear the result.”
The quality of his craftsmanship can be heard as air exhales through his pipes in churches all over the world, including such locations as Switzerland, Korea, Japan and China.
What extra cash he has at the end of the month goes to an underprivileged child on the other side of the globe he got hooked up with through The Compassion Network.
“I’m not rich. I’m just a working guy,” he said, “but our type of life is just beyond [some people’s] imagination, and that’s what we have to fight against…we need to spread the wealth.”
He doesn’t own a cellphone, but that doesn’t stop some of the 700 residents of New Sweden from tracking down their selectman in the middle of the night to help with a fallen tree in the road.
Sundays are saved for church. He’s been singing in the choir since he was a kid, and if you’re lucky you can swing by the Covenant Church to hear him belt hymns (he said he could do it “all day.”)
His Swedish aunt planted roots in northern Maine after traveling the country and hearing about Swedes migrating here. It was visits with his aunt that helped him fall in love with Maine, and after growing up in Massachusetts he moved north.
Francine, his wife, who has her own place across town (they have separate lives), checks in on him and makes sure he’s keeping track of his doctors’ appointments (he has high blood pressure). They share two sons, Charles and Philip, both grown with lives of their own.
She said Boody’s a free spirit.
“At times I felt like I was bringing up three kids,” she said.
His bohemian lifestyle isn’t typical for County folk, but he’s not your typical guy. He’s a proud liberal, and among his endless interests, high up on the list, is the well-being of others.
“He really doesn’t say no to anybody,” said Francine. “He’s always willing to help, especially with playing music.”
Katy and Winnie, his canine companions, accompany him on afternoon walks through the woods out back of his house past the chicken coop and garden plots.
When it’s time to come in and put together pipes, he saddles up to his bench, slips on the reading glasses he picked up at the Dollar Tree (thanks to the glaucoma creeping in), warms up his soldering iron, and puts his talented hands to work.
Inside his workshop there’s just enough room to sit and work, as every other inch of space is taken up by hundreds of vinyl records and photographs. He’s surrounded by his collections, and at first sight you feel like you might be swallowed up by a living thing. There’s life and love and motion in Boody’s home workshop.