Late wood sculptor left his mark on PT

Posted 10/16/19

Over the past three decades, the late Stanley Rill became a fixture in the Port Townsend arts scene with his intricate wood carvings.

“Stanley Rill was one of the finest woodcarvers in the Pacific Northwest, with a long and prolific career,” said John Montgomery of Edensaw Woods, LTD. “I only wish he had more time.”

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Late wood sculptor left his mark on PT

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Over the past three decades, the late Stanley Rill became a fixture in the Port Townsend arts scene with his intricate wood carvings.

“Stanley Rill was one of the finest woodcarvers in the Pacific Northwest, with a long and prolific career,” said John Montgomery of Edensaw Woods, LTD. “I only wish he had more time.”

Edensaw has had a working relationship with Rill since it opened about 30 years ago, Montgomery said, noting he carved several of the company’s signs still in front of the showroom.

Fellow wood sculpting artist Cavin Richie, of Port Ludlow, remembers his late friend fondly.

“Stanley was like many artists in the area, a quiet man that was reclusive in nature,” Richie said. “He lived on the outskirts of town, popping into Port Townsend for supplies every now and again, then back home to his studio.”

Richie lived in a similar manner, which meant the two did not meet for 15 years, Richie said.

“A mutual friend knew us both and couldn’t believe we hadn’t met so he took each of us to each other’s studios and introduced us. That was in 1991 and we had been friends since.”

Rill always worked in wood, often in a colossal scale, Richie said.

“Besides carving signs, furniture and doors he also carved snags and stumps that were in people’s yards. He always saw something hidden in the wood and when he finished the carving, herons, eagles, salmon and people would emerge.“

With stump carving, Rill would build scaffolding all around the stump sometimes 30-40-feet tall, and spend months whittling away, Richie said.

“He worked year-round carving through wind and rain. For sites that were far from home, he converted an old RV that held all his carving tools, workbenches as well as a bed, cooking area and wood stove.” Richie said in the beginning of his career there would be months without a stump to carve but as his reputation grew, he often was back-ordered with work.

Richie said his fondest memories of Rill are the conversations they had concerning their ongoing art projects at breakfasts they shared once or twice a month in Port Townsend.

“We talked about our early days in Port Townsend. Stanley loved nature and the outdoors. He kayaked from La Push to Neah Bay and all around the Salish Sea.”

Then, about two years ago, Rill arrived at his monthly breakfast with Richie hooked up to an oxygen machine, having recently been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

“He got on the lung transplant waitlist and last January had a successful lung transplant,” Richie said. “His demeanor during that time as he was weakening was always positive and hopeful. Unfortunately his lungs were never right and he went through many indignities trying to heal.”

Richie said just about everyone who knew Rill marveled at his quiet gentle demeanor.

“He was a tinkerer who always tried to improve people’s lives.”

Rill’s sisters, Carolyn and Gloria, remember their brother fondly.

“Stanley was such a unique, lovely, talented and wonderful man that is so sadly seldom seen,” Carolyn said. “With all the pain and suffering that he’s endured this past year or so, he never complained, and always kept such a cheerful and upbeat demeanor.”

Carolyn said Rill’s doctor and the staff at the hospital “couldn’t help but fall in love with our beautiful Stanley. They mentioned that he never complained, not once, to them about his situation, and was always genuinely concerned about how they were all doing instead.”

Michele Raney, Rill’s former girlfriend, said even when hospitalized, Rill still had to create.

“Stan was a genuine MacGyver. He could fix anything. In fact, while in the hospital for several months, his creative mind worked on ideas and inventions to help make life in the hospital more efficient and comfortable.”

The doctors and nurses highly valued his input, and his presentation added humor, even in the most uncomfortable situations, Raney said.

“Word passed around that if you wanted your spirit lifted visit Stan’s room.”

Growing up in Africa, Rill was exposed to the art of woodcarving from a young age, said Gloria.

“He really loved carving when he was younger. The carvings he saw were his first inspiration.”

Gloria said she was constantly astounded by her brother’s work.

Michele Raney, Rill’s former girlfriend, said Rill created a life full of adventure.

“It was always a good time going camping with Stan, especially kayak camping. Delightful creative cooking was always part of the experience.”

Raney said Rill was always ready to help others in need.

“I recall a time when Stan and I were camping on Lake Washington. We were having dinner gazing out at the lake watching a lone kayaker. Lightning-fast Stan jumped into his kayak and went out and saved a man from drowning. In most any situation, Stan invented his way through. I always felt safe with Stanley.”

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