Robert Carroll, 73, craftsman made furniture in his home for 25 years

February 09, 1999|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Robert Carroll made chairs to order. He crafted and carved the tiny wooden chairs found in day care centers, as well as oversized ones to suit basketball players. He painted pretty designs on some, carved scenes into others and made sure each had a trace of his personality.

"He always said he was a little quirky, and that's just how his furniture was -- quirky," said Walter Simmeral, a longtime friend. "It was clever and quirky. That's how you could describe him, too."

Mr. Carroll, 73, a Baltimore native and longtime Govans resident who moved to New York City in 1995, died Friday of heart failure at his brother's home in New York City. Although he specialized in chairs, he made all types of furniture at his East Baltimore home for nearly 25 years.

Many pieces of his furniture were similar, but no two alike. And, after he finished each, Mr. Carroll dreaded selling them.

"It's like a chair that has become part of his family," said his brother, Lester Carroll of New York City. "It may not have taken a lot of time to make, but he put a lot of thought and creativity into his work."

With no advertising, knowledge of his craft spread by word of mouth. Mr. Carroll's furniture was popular in many East Baltimore communities, where he often sold chairs and tables.

He once made a miniature dining table and chairs for a day care center. The chairs were made to resemble tree trunks, painted bright green and carved to give each the look and feel of a tree.

"It's clever, and the kids seem to like it," said Shondra Owens, who works at an East Baltimore day care center that uses his items. "I'll tell one thing -- it's sturdy and original."

Other chairs included a set painted to look like the Seven Dwarfs, a pedestal with a saddle-shaped seat and one with its seat 4 feet from the ground.

Much of Mr. Carroll's work was done in the garage or basement of his Castle Street home, and, in warmer months, he would take his woodworking tools into his yard and work.

Born in East Baltimore, Mr. Carroll graduated from city public schools and served in the Army from 1942 to 1945 during World War II. Upon his discharge, he briefly attended Coppin State College.

He worked as a welder for Bethlehem Steel at its Sparrows Point plant from 1949 to 1965, and worked in maintenance for city schools until the early 1990s.

A memorial service is planned for this month.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Carroll, who was divorced, is survived by two sons, Lendall Carroll of Washington, and Antonio Carroll of Upper Marlboro; a daughter, Wanda Carroll-Garrison of Baltimore; two sisters, Ruth Devane of Baltimore and Gail Law of New York City; and five grandchildren.

Pub Date: 2/09/99

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