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Video: Meet the 94-year-old Richmond woodworker furnishing luxury homes

"I love it, that's why I'm still working," says Hans Verhoeff, who has been crafting stunning wooden furniture for 80 years.

A Richmond resident has been crafting beautiful pieces of wooden furniture for eight decades, and he doesn't plan to stop.

Hans Verhoeff, 94, drives to Vancouver three days a week to work in his riverfront workshop along Southwest Marine Drive.

"I love it, that's why I'm still working," said Verhoeff as he sat in the warmly lit workshop, nestled in an A-frame building originally used to repair boats.

Verhoeff was born in the Hague in the Netherlands in 1930. His family lived above his father's custom furniture shop near the Peace Palace, where Verhoeff began his journey into furniture making. 

Once, during the Second World War, Verhoeff and his father tried to recreate a cabinet from a photo of it in a museum using wood from an old windmill. 

"We made some real fancy things," he said.

Verhoeff always knew he wanted to be a cabinetmaker. He began his career in the Netherlands at the age of 14, and he hasn't stopped since.

Seeing the finished products, meeting new people and problem-solving are some of his favourite aspects of furniture making.

"Sometimes you don't know how you go about something and it gets awkward. And you think about it over the weekend and you find a solution. That's very satisfying," Verhoeff explained.

He added that knowledge is key to his craft.

"You have to know all the types of wood. You have to know every trade that's connected to you, like wallpaper hangers, painters, upholstery," he said.

Moving to Canada for a change

Verhoeff moved to Canada in 1957 after the Second World War, when he felt he needed a change.

He got his start as a cabinetmaker in Vancouver making 50 cents an hour and later got a job that paid 65 cents an hour, which was "a lot better" though it was not high by any means.

"At the same time, (we) could buy a chocolate bar for 10 cents," said Verhoeff.

He later took on a job with a company called BC Hardwood, which no longer exists, where he helped build cabinets and other furniture for UBC.

Now, Verhoeff furnishes luxury homes across the Lower Mainland and even in Seattle, with projects spanning years before completion.

"I think it was the Lord who moved me to come here," Verhoeff explained, looking back at his role in building the Christian Reformed Church in Richmond.

He recalls the community coming together to build the church, now the Tapestry Church on No. 2 Road, from scratch.

"The whole church, everybody helped. It was such a good time. (They) took care of bringing us lunch or coffee and took turns (to do so)," he said.

Verhoeff also helped put on the finishing touches at Blundell elementary, including the play area.

Now years later, his legacy can still be spotted around the city.

"I'm so proud of it," Verhoeff said.

Blessed with good health

When Verhoeff isn't working, he takes care of his wife at home and runs errands.

He met his wife while teaching Sunday school, and they have four children who are now in their 50s and 60s.

"That's when I feel that I'm getting older. But for the rest, I'm still very healthy," said Verhoeff.

A cardigan over his shirt was all Verhoeff needed on a crisp winter morning last week when he showed the News the outside of the building that housed his workshop. 

"I'm blessed with good health," he said, adding he makes sure his diet does not have too much fat and sugar and he is always active.

"I'm a Christian. I believe that the Lord gives me health, gives me the talents... He gives me the opportunity to work. All my life, I've never been without work."

At 80 years old, Verhoeff was photographed working on the roof of a house in West Vancouver, and he has yet to retire from working on high ground.

"I always paint my own house," he said.

During summers, Verhoeff also teaches woodworking at summer camps organized by his church. From planes and trains to clocks and boxes, kids can get a taste of what it's like to make their own toys.

For now, Verhoeff hopes to keep working for as long as possible.

"So long as I'm healthy," he said.

"I like being at home, reading a book, watching some TV, but I can't do that all day. I get restless. I have to do stuff. That way, each day gives satisfaction.

"It's not always easy, but I enjoy it."

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