94-year old WWII veteran builds wooden crosses for local churches

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DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WMBB) — Out of Walton County, a Defuniak Springs man and his family are spreading joy through hand-made wooden crosses.

On any given day, you’ll find 94-year old Frank Neibert sitting in his backyard at his workstation.

“I’m out here almost every day,” said Neibert, a World War II veteran.

He spends his time hand-building wooden crosses, ranging anywhere from 1 to 7 feet tall. His daughter, Liz Henderson, said it has become a passion-project for Neibert and her husband, L.D., building hundreds of the crosses for local churches out of wood from clogged rivers; each cross is then delivered by surprise to local churches. 

“When they put their heads together and start building stuff, you better look out,” said Henderson. “You don’t know what they’re going to come up with but it’s going to be something awesome, I can guarantee you.”

She said her dad is a special man of very few words, but what he did say spoke volumes. 

When asked what he thinks about when building the crosses, he responded with a tear in his eye, “I think about my wife who passed away.”

Suiden Neibert, the love of his life, passed away in 2016.

Since then, Liz said he hasn’t been the same; but when he builds crosses, Suiden is there too.

“She’s looking down on me saying, ‘you dummy, you finally found something to do,’” said Neibert. 

Henderson said it helps him feel closer to his wife. 

“It brings him a lot of joy, it brings him comfort,” she said. “It keeps him going and as long as he wants to do it, I’ll help him roll down the ramp.”

After L.D. finds and mills the wood, 16 to 20 hours of hand-labor is put into each piece. Henderson puts the finishing varnish on each of the crosses, before they are delivered by surprise to different churches in the area.

“I know it’s brought a lot of peace and comfort to someone in any congregation in any denomination,” she said.

Since beginning the project almost a year ago, the trio has built over 80 large crosses, and more than three hundred smaller crosses to give to churches, businesses and families around the area.

Now, they are looking to start selling their smaller crosses in order to help support the material costs of each cross. For more information, click here or call 850-612-4842.

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