Handmade table is a legacy of love

Monday, September 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By KAREN GREEN The Shawnee News-Star SHANWEE, Okla. (AP) -- After more than 60 years, a man's three-year labor of love has become a legacy to his family.

A unique card table made of 114 different woods from every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica, rests in the home of Larry Sullivan, a unique and beautiful testimony to the man who crafted it.

"My dad was a self-taught woodworker," Sullivan said, with pride in his voice as he eyed the game table.

"He spent most of his leisure time out in his workshop,"

Sullivan said. "If he wasn't out there working on something, he had a piece of wood in one hand and a knife in the other and he whittled. It was his way of relaxing."

Though Sullivan admits he and his brother, Jack, spent much of their growing up time out in the shop watching their father work, neither inherited his talent.

"We both like to do it, but we lack his ability to work with the wood. We sure can't do what he did," he said. "Every thing I do is basic when it is compared to his work."

Sullivan lovingly remembers his father, Leo P. Sullivan, as a hardworking man who loved the feel and smell of wood.

The founder of Sullivan Wholesale, the elder Sullivan died in 1981.

Sullivan began working on the card table in October 1935 and for three years he labored diligently to complete it.

Using more than 5,000 pieces of wood in varying sizes, he meticulously pieced the work together using glue. The only screws in the table hold on the legs, which also are intricately designed.

"This is the original finish. It hasn't been painted, stained or anything," Sullivan explained. The varying colors of the table get their shading from the natural colors of the woods.

Sullivan said the family was financially strapped when his father began work on the table, so he counted on his many friends to bring him woods from the different countries they visited.

The woods, holly, ebony, cherry, walnut, teak, oak, pine, maple, fir, pecan, hickory, mahogany and pear, to name a few, are from such exotic places as Brazil, Africa, East India, Zambia, Madagascar, England and France.

"One of the woods in the table is from a 100-year-old walnut tree in the yard of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

There also is white oak from a tree at the home of the American Cherokee Chief Sequoyah," Sullivan said.

The corners of the table are detailed with aces in all four suits -- diamond, club, heart and spade.

Once completed, Sullivan said the table was a source of pride for the whole family. And it was his father's pride and joy.

"It was also an excellent way for my mother to keep my father in line," he said. "If he did something she didn't like, she would let him know about it by threatening to let my brother and I play checkers on the card table with bottle caps. That got his attention."

Sullivan said he inherited the table recently when it became necessary to place his mother in a care center.

"But it's not mine. It's my mother's. It will be as long as she is alive," Sullivan said.

Putting a price on the table is impossible for Sullivan.

"I guess you could say it's priceless," he added. "There is no way it will ever be sold. It is definitely going to stay in the Sullivan family. It is a keepsake from my dad. When I look at it, I remember him."