The Elizabeth Collection
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA as most refer to as the Steel Mills of America and true dedicated fans to The Steelers. I was born into a time when the steel mills were closing their doors. My family members were hard dedicated factory workers. My Grandpap worked for the Clark Bar Company and yes, my Grandpap came home with fresh chocolate bars, eating a candy bar will never be the same. My Dad was a dedicated man working in a scrap yard until a horrific accident nearly left him paralyzed. This accident changed his course in life as a young man and father. A life of obstacles yet he taught me the love of the outdoors. My mother worked for Heinz factory, third shift, cleaning the machines getting ready for the next day’s production and raising me by herself. My mother and I moved every two years to different areas of Pittsburgh. I learned to make new friends, learned my way around new schools, and learned how to accept change.
In high school I was a football player and enjoyed the game, what young man in Pittsburgh didn’t have a love for football? I think it is ingrained into our DNA. I have fond memories of my mother watching me from the stands. Time came to decide what to do after high school? I was the kid that headed to the recruiting office and joined the U.S Army.
I never fathomed the greatly unexpected adjustment I would learn to deal with at 18 years old. It was just a few weeks into basic training when I was called into the office and there, I was told my mother passed away. She was diagnosed with cancer 1 month prior to basic training and within 3 months she was gone. I went home for 5 days to say good bye to my mom. The Army just became my family and my home. I never intended being a career soldier. My original plan was to give 3 years to the military, get money for college, and then get going with my life, but all that changed so quickly. My mom found out in September, I left in October, and she died that November. It was all in a course of just 3 short months. It was a defining moment because if she were alive, 3 years would have been the extent of my career in the service. I didn’t have time to dwell on it. I came home for the week, handled what I had to and went back into the mix of basic training.
I look back at the age of 18 and wasn’t planning on doing anything with the rest of my life. Even afterward, the rebel in me never really accepted that I would be in the Army for my entire career. I would say to myself,
“I’m not a lifer!” and 20 years later, Guess what?
After all the traveling from Hawaii, Italy, Korea, several deployments to other foreign countries, and stateside duty stations, I found my way to my last station,The United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. This is were my path converged with Beth and our path brought us to where we are today. About that time, I found myself picking up old habits. I started looking for a way to channel my creativity once I was retired, and needed to turn boredom into something productive. My dad had a background in the arts and did ceramics and jewelry making with his wife. I always did needlepoint while I was in the army, and I would get made fun of all the time because I was sitting there cross stitching. It was just something to do with my hands while watching TV. I looked for what I could get into once again. I started watching videos on leather working and purchased a kit, and made my first handmade leather good: the very same wallet I carry around today. This hobby soon turned into gifts for loved ones and after encouragement from friends and family to sell my product we started frequenting festivals with what we cut stitched and crafted in our home. Then in 2014, the opportunity to open brick and mortar shop started me thinking. And with some convincing Beth we opened our doors February 7, 2015. And 4 years later we have grown three times and I look forward to seeing where our path keeps taking us.