Man masters dollhouses despite disability
AMESBURY, Mass. (AP) — Philip Dandurant has a hobby that makes him — and many other people — very happy.
“I’ve built dollhouses on and off for the past 30 years,” said Dandurant, 62. “They’re more or less a winter project. Different people ask for them.”
The Amesbury native has used a wheelchair ever since a diving accident left him a quadriplegic 40 years ago this summer.
“I dove into Lake Attitash one night and I hit a rock with my head,” Dandurant said. “That left me paralyzed from my chin down. I was a kid. I was 22 years old.”
Dandurant’s disability has not held him back, however. He works extensively with other people with disabilities, serves as an access monitor for the state, and has been a member of the Amesbury Housing Authority for 25 years. He also dances and calls bingo at Heritage Towers every Friday night.
“They say there is a reason for everything. Well, I found my reason. That is helping other people,” he said in a recent interview. “I help the handicapped and I help the elderly. I also bowl with the handicapped in Haverhill.”
“To see the young kids come in who have been in a wheelchair all of their lives and bowl and have a smile on their face, well, I have nothing to complain about,” he added. “It has changed my life for the better that I am helping a lot of people. I wouldn’t be doing that if I were still walking.”
Dandurant had worked in the construction industry before his accident, and built his first dollhouse with his father 30 years ago.
“People are surprised at what I can do,” he said. “I can hardly even use my fingers.”
Dandurant also builds miniature gazebos and most recently built a 5-foot-tall bookcase dollhouse, complete with 750 roof shingles, that was recently raffled off to benefit an Amesbury Housing Authority crafters club.
“We didn’t get much in the raffle but I made a dollhouse for them before and we got over $750,” Dandurant said.
Betsy Lee Oliver won the bookcase dollhouse and said she loves it.
“My granddaughter is getting it,” she said. “She’ll be 5 in a week.”
Dandurant also recently built a dollhouse for the daughter of a housekeeper who works at Heritage Towers.
“It was huge, over 6 or 7 feet tall,” he said. “I got it all together and the little girl came over and she was totally surprised by it.”
When the little girl asked Dandurant how much it would cost to bring the dollhouse home, he had a simple answer for her.
“I asked if she had a hug for me and she did,” he said, and that was enough.
Dandurant has built many dollhouses for his family and friends, some of which stood more than 6 feet tall.
“I built one for a friend of mine who had a little daughter about a year and a half old,” he said. “We were sitting around talking and the next thing you know, she crawled right into it. All you saw was these little legs sticking out of it.”
Dandurant said he has “no regrets” about his situation and only asks to be treated like anyone else.
“I could be going down the street and someone will cross the street in front of me and then will cross back once they are away from me,” Dandurant said. “That’s what hurts.”
A decent-sized dollhouse costs Dandurant between $150 and $300 to build, but he doesn’t charge anything for them. He said he is just letting the word out about his talent to make a simple point to whoever will listen.
“Be grateful for what you have,” he said. “If you are going to feel angry all your life, you won’t get far. You’ve got to turn around and accept it. If you don’t accept it, you’re in trouble.”
Information from: The Daily News of Newburyport (Mass.), http://www.newburyportnews.com