Retirement can be an exciting adventure, and one local artist and artisan is proving that every day.
Thomas Tronconi of Morris Park became a master woodworker and stained-glass designer after retiring from his job as a computer programmer at a major cultural institution in 2002.
Tronconi said he developed these hobbies to stay active and keep his mind sharp after wrapping up his career.
He recently built a 15-foot-tall backyard castle for his two-year-old granddaughter Callie that is complete with a drawbridge that opens, a swing, sandbox, slide, and windows that open.
The two-level structure and its tower were constructed from plywood remnants, he said.
“It gave me something to do, and I thought she would enjoy it,” Tronconi said of the finished playhouse, which they have named ‘Callie’s Castle.’
He said he granddaughter loves the castle, especially its swing, and added that her cousins are also making ample use of it.
The modular castle was fabricated in the basement of the Tronconi home beginning in January, and follows a long-line of building experimentation as he looked for ways to utilize his talents after retirement.
“When you are retired, you can take as much time as you want on (a project),” said Tronconi. “If you are doing things commercially, ‘time is money,’ as the saying goes, but in retirement you just do it until you get tired of it.”
Tronconi also got active creating glass and wooden electric lanterns with different designs – ranging from images of saints and religious subjects to ‘art nouveau’-style lamps – and began selling them through street fairs and church shops.
He builds each lantern by hand, affixing velum images to each side of the four-faced lanterns, which usually contain 28 pieces of glass each, finding much of what he needs in terms of inspiration and instruction to complete his projects online.
Tronconi also undertook a special home improvement project, where he created glass-paned door that contained 200 pieces of stained glass in a formation of a woman in the art nouveau tradition, art that was popular at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The door took some eight months to complete, said Tronconi, who pointed out that the face of the woman in the door is that of actress Natalie Portman.
He has also tried his hand at writing mystery novels, self-publishing a detective book called ‘The Counterfeit Kidnapper’ and even a narrative of his own battle with prostate cancer, penning over a dozen unpublished manuscripts.
He stresses it is all for fun and a sense of fulfillment.
“You have to keep busy in retirement, because you either wear out or you rust out,” he said.