A Chair to Honor My Dad

It’s been 13 years and counting. My dad passed away somewhat suddenly after being a very active man. The last few days of his life we turned to hospice so we could bring our dad home where he wanted to be. Up to this point, I had no experience or contact with a hospice organization—death was a scary topic that I didn’t care to entertain. But the fact is, it comes to all of us eventually. And looking back, I am so grateful for hospice. Sure, it’s still painful after all these years to look back on those events, but because of this organization I do have some comfort in knowing that we were able to give my dad his last wish—being at home. My brother and I were prepared to do whatever we needed to take care of him, but after an initial evaluation, the hospice nurses said they would be there 24 hours a day. And, they were amazing in their care not only for my dad, but for us. People who devote their lives to this type of service are simply amazing. The nurses are a huge part of this, but it takes a village to run hospice organizations from office staff to counselors and educators.
Every year for the past four years I’ve donated a chair to the annual Hospice Austin’s Beauty of Life charity auction event. This year is no different. And as I’ve selected the frame, fabric, and finish of my chair, I’ve reflected on my dad. He would never have believed I’ve made a career change like this one. But he were still alive, he would be my biggest cheerleader.  
Calvin Lee Hill was a child of the depression, born in 1930 to poor parents in Dallas, Texas. If they were lucky, they had meat once a week. His father and uncle owned Hill Top Cleaners while his mother was a hat designer.

But I never knew my grandparents. His father died when my dad was only 16 years old, and five years later his mother died of a stroke. My looks (and my interests) favor her. Here she is with my dad, age 17. It’s hard to believe, but she’s around my age in this photo…evidence of how life was so hard back then.

I wanted to style a chair for the Hospice Austin charity auction to honor my dad this year. I found this frame at an antique/junk shop in San Antonio…an antique for sure, but with great bones. I can’t say for sure, but it’s at least as old as my dad would have been by now.

It was coated with layers and layers of dirty cream colored paint. What a mess! I spent time applying stripper, sanding, and cleaning to get this finish.

I felt that a more natural stripped down finish would give this chair the unique look I envisioned.

Because the frame is so light, I needed a dark fabric. For the past year I’ve been eyeing this fabric from the Dorothy Draper collection by Schumacher. Draper, an iconic interior decorator, helped shape design during the time of my dad’s younger years. I plan on doing some research on her life for personal inspiration.

It’s my hope that this chair brings in a good chunk of change at the auction to benefit Hospice Austin. I’ll be there again this year and if you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ll see the pictures in a few weeks.

Here’s to you dad…a hard worker, great man, and always my cheerleader! You are still missed.


I'm Wendy Conklin, The Chair Stylist.

What brings me joy is helping others live more creatively. I design antique-inspired, boutique chairs, and I teach others how to do what I do. Check out my shop, services, and courses to bring more whimsy into your home and life!

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