By Chuck Woodbury
In the back room of The Glass Forge in downtown Grants Pass, Ore., on a table toward the back, sits a tiny model airplane glass-blown by business co-owner Lee Wassink. It isn’t meant to fly. It’s meant to look like a miniature Piper Cherokee, a single engine airplane popular with private pilots around the world.
I picked up the plane to look closely because it was so different from the other blown-glass objects created at the Forge — vases, ornaments, lamp shades, goblets, even little pumpkins for the just-finished Halloween season.
“The pilot’s right in there,” Lee said to me, pointing at the plane. To which I responded, “He is?” I wondered what the heck he was talking about. I examined the plane closely for a figurine at the controls, but there was nothing there — just some murky-looking glass where the cockpit would be.
“No, he’s in there,” Lee said. “His ashes.”
He explained to me that a recently widowed woman asked him if he could create a half-dozen tiny airplanes with a clear stand beneath each where the ashes of her late-husband, who flew a Piper Cherokee, could be entombed. Lee said, yes, he could do that.
Lee suggested instead that he put the ashes right inside the cockpit itself rather than in the stand. The woman thought that was a great idea. Later, when she returned to pick up the planes, she took five but left one behind, the one I was holding. Lee thinks maybe it was because the paint job wasn’t right.
If you are in Grants Pass, stop by the Glass Forge at 501 SW G Street, where you can watch Lee and his business partner Nathan Sheafor and their crew create beautiful blown-glass objects. They welcome guests and enthusiastically answer questions. If you come on a cold day, the 2,300-degree ovens will keep you toasty warm. Learn more at the company’s website, where you can watch a live webcam to see what’s happening right at the moment.