With a hearty laugh that fills a Nanaimo room, Don Olsen offers up equal parts support and criticism to his students.

He’s a passionate carver who cuts away at anything holding men and women back from their best work.

“I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have in three years without Don’s help,” said David Mulholland, a member of the Mid-Island Carving Club.

“He knows everything about everything. You just wouldn’t believe it.”

“Advice comes easy,” said fellow carver Gary Smith.

“Because it’s done with a smile, not a fist.”

The group is all retirees who have carved out lives already and now are enjoying the companionship that comes with a shared hobby. They all enjoy working the wood and chewing the fat at the Mid-Island Carving Club.

“And you gossip together and we have a great time,” said the Mid Island Carving Club’s Don Olsen.

“Particularly at this time in your life, when families have all gone and like your children have all grown up and you’re on your own,” said carver Don Adams, another member

“I get missing it when I’m not here,” said carver Jean Poitras.

Don Olsen is the unofficial captain on the carving squad and has been carving for over 30 years.

He is now about to turn 90 and he is sharing all the knowledge he’s gained carving. His son Glenn Olsen said he couldn’t be more proud.

“He’s turning 90 this year and he’s still teaching,” said Glenn.

Olsen picked carving up when dealing with a stressful career.

“I could feel all the tension go into the wood,” said Olsen

“And then I’d cut it off and it was gone.”

In the years since, it has helped him live through the hardest days of his life, including the loss of his adoring wife Phyllis.

Carving brought him through the other side where fellow carvers have all become a support network now.

“To me, people is life,” said Adams.

“Always have something to do,” said Olsen.

“And God knows I’ve got lots to do.”

Skye Ryan