Story Slim Smith | Photograph Luisa Porter
Of the many things Bob Harrell loved, two stood at the top: his family and building things, especially things of wood.
The latter was often an expression of the former and when he died on March 30, the reminders of his two passions were found on almost every corner of the Harrells’ large family compound next to Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point. There is the impressive 20-foot tall teepee he built for the grandkids, which he completed the day he died. There is the chapel he built for the wedding of his daughter, Frances, in 2000. There is a massive wooden cross that dominates the family gravesite where Bob was laid to rest this spring at age 77.
But by far the most imposing of his buildings is called “The Barn,” although it isn’t what you expect of a barn.
The large, beautiful structure was based on an Italian farmhouse Bob and his wife, Caroline, saw while on vacation in Italy. The wood and stone structure features a sprawling, well-appointed patio, complete with a massive brick fireplace.
The interior is divided into two sections. The first is a huge kitchen/dining area, a room big enough to accommodate family gatherings that include seven children, 30 grandchildren (the names of which are inscribed on the bricks of an interior wall), in-laws and family friends.
The other half was devoted to his workshop, a space filled floor to ceiling with his wood-crafts, from toys to furniture to just about anything else that could be fashioned out of wood. He loved making toys for the grandchildren and furniture and accessories for the kids.
Bob’s love for his family and his passion for building accompanied him throughout his life, right up until the end. His love, like his work, endures.