My America...Journeys

"Let every fellow tell his tale about." Chaucer

Wednesday, August 02, 2006



In 1988, Ted Ludwiczak, who had seen more of life than most of us will ever see, moved to a house on the bluff overlooking the Hudson River in Haverstraw, NY.
And it is here where his second, or maybe third or fourth life—he has seen so much that is hard to tell--began.


Born in Poland, he escaped that communist country on a cargo ship, beginning a perapatic journey that would carry him from India to Saudi Arabia to Egypt and back to Europe, where he found work first as a tour guide and then as a translator for the US Army.

In 1956, he came to the U.S. and eventually found work and his own business grinding prescription lenses; a precursor to his love of stone and the art of carving. Today, he is one of the more interesting characters and a truly gifted man living in Rockland County, celebrated locally and selling his stone carvings through a New York gallery.

He had no idea that his life would take this turn. After buying the house, it didn’t take him long to see that winter storms and hurricanes were eating away at his unprotected shorefront property. “I was traumatized” he says now.
And he decided to do something about it. Sixty and Retired, he had nothing but time. “I got bored, and I had to do something”, he says

He cut the forty two steps from his back yard to the water line and built a concrete seawall. It was pretty simple, if arduous. All he had to bring was the cement. He had water and dirt right there, and this being Rockland County, he had stone in spades.
But when it was finished, the wall was bare and uninspiring. That’s where serendipity took its turn, spinning his life to its present course.

He found a stone, that as he put it, “spoke to me”

It had holes where eyes might be, and a gash where a mouth could be imagined. He got a railroad spike and hammer, and began chipping away, creating his first head in less than one day. But it looked lonely.

“He was sad”, Ted says of his first creation. “He needed company, so I carved another one”. By the end of the summer, he had adorned his 65 foot seawall with forty two carved heads. And he hasn’t stopped since.

He works just about every day, using nothing more than simple hand tools and a small grinder which he set up against the outside wall of the house. Using whatever is at hand, basalt, granite, marble, quartz, and the ever-present red sandstone the lies around here in abundance, he has carved over a thousand heads which stand all over his front yard, on the slopes leading to the river, and on walls and shelves all over the small home where he has surrounded himself with figments of his imagination made real in stone.

“They are my family” says the father of two, grandfather of three. “That’s why I brought them in here”, he says, waving to the shelves around his small living room. His creations are not modeled on any mythological creatures that they resemble, and certainly do not resemble any real people. Nor does he name them, although he used to. He lets each stone speak for itself, creating his fantasy world “I can’t wait for the day to begin so I can get out and start carving”, he says.