By Ray Balogh
WARSAW — Warsaw resident Maynard Wade is literally surrounded by a world of his own making.
He lives in a now debt-free home he built in 1988 … in a 20-lot subdivision he built east of town in the 1970s … on a road named after him.
Retired and living on Social Security since 1994, the former construction company owner spends time in the wood shop that takes up about three-quarters of his 1,456-square-foot garage, when he’s not playing one of his homemade dulcimers or vending his woodworking products at various festivals around the area.
Wade has lived alone since Gloria, his wife of 68 years, passed away three years ago, but maintains contact with their daughter, who lives at Sechrist Lake near Leesburg, and son in Bloomington.
Both his children are retired, the daughter from cabinet maker Superior Wood Products and the son who now designs scenic sets for a local theater company.
Wade has made 430 dulcimers in the last 60 years. He taught himself to play the instrument and particularly enjoys strumming the one he made from wood taken from the Silver Lake home in which he was born.
“The wood is more than 100 years old and that dulcimer is my favorite. It won’t ever get sold,” he said.
Wade belonged to the Shipshewana Dulcimer Society. “There were about 10 or 15 of us and we performed different places like outdoor festivals back in the 1990s.”
He also played saxophone and clarinet for his high school band. “We called ourselves The Sentimental Seven and put on shows, made some money and rented tuxes. We played at the veterans home in Marion. That was when they had men with their music. Now they have boys with their noise.”
Wade also makes wooden guns — lots of them. He has sold “thousands” of his rubber band-powered pistols, shotguns and rifles. At one Johnny Appleseed Festival in Fort Wayne, he sold 500 in two days.
He formed a fictitious corporation, the Woodchester Arms Company, and has been crafting the firearms “forever.”
He and Gloria used to travel extensively, setting up vendor booths to sell their folk art and crafts at various venues, including the covered bridge festival in Bridgeton and winters “doing the craft circuit” in Florida.
For seven years, they set up at Pioneerland during the Laporte County Fair, selling their wares and donating hand-carved wood items for auction, including a wooden motorcycle, bench and a pie safe that fetched $960.
They bought a house in the Sunshine State in 1988, the same year he built their home in Warsaw. They sold the home after six years, as they were not cut out for the sedentary life. “You can only play so much shuffleboard and bingo,” he said.
Wade graduated from high school in 1947 and was conscripted into the Army scant months before he became too old for the draft. “I spent my 26th birthday in basic training,” he said.
He served stateside from 1955-57, providing radio-controlled drones for target practice for a missile program at White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico.
He was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, about 20 miles from the New Mexico border.
His service was classified. “After I got out I was trying to get a hat with my unit number, but was told there was no such unit.”
Before his enlistment Wade worked for Arnold Corp. in Warsaw. His first construction job was the Steer Inn Restaurant in Silver Lake.
Still spry and energetic, the nonagenarian gets his inspiration from “what my wife said before she died, ‘I got you and you got me. Everything else is just stuff.’ People think they have to achieve stuff, like a fancy automobile or a three-story house, but you can’t take it with you.”
Wade still sells his dulcimers and can be reached at (574) 265-6786.