Bruce Frankel

Author of the new book "What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life? True Stories of Finding Success, Passion, and New Meaning in the Second Half of Life."

Theodore Ludwiczak

Rock Star

It was low tide when Theodore Ludwiczak put down his trowel and stepped back from the sixty-six-foot bulwark he had spent more than two years building. … (A) retired contact-lens grinder, (he) hoped the seawall would protect it from further erosion. As he assessed his handiwork, he felt a flash of disappointment. Aesthetic concerns replaced practical ones. “The wall looked bare and primitive,” he said, with a Polish accent. “It needed something.”

He looked around without knowing precisely what he was looking for. Buried at his feet in the river sand he saw a large, clay-colored rock. “It spoke to me,” he said. “I looked at it and I saw a face. I saw eyes and a mouth. I grabbed the broken lawn mower blade I used working on the wall. I ran up to the garage and got a hammer and a screwdriver, and I started carving a head. I kept chiseling all day.”

Twenty-one years later, the eighty-two-year-old Ludwiczak.…  has chiseled about 1,200 others, using stone found on his walks along the river, on roads, and in nearby forests. Some smile with twisted lips, others are inscrutably serene and mysterious. Some have long, thin noses and jutting chins. They do not have eyes yet they seem to see nonetheless. Dozens of his sculptures are embedded in the seawall along the riverfront an hour north of New York City. Hundreds more populate a small yard, one hundred feet above the river, making it one of the most remarkable folk-art environments in the state and garnering gazes from curious sailors who pass Ludwiczak’s place. “They call it Easter Island.”