By Charlsy Panzino
When Col. Ron Light, USA (Ret), was only 10 years old, he watched his father, who was serving in the military, spend months finishing an unfinished basement. “He was a pretty good carpenter,” said Light. “Everywhere we lived, he would do something to the home we lived in.”
He admits that he didn’t have much appreciation at that time for the work his father was doing, but that would later change.
In 1981, after graduating from Penn State University, Light entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. He continued serving for 30 years, including commanding the Middle East District.
During that time, his own interest in woodwork started to develop. In 1995, when he was well into his own military career and his father was retired, his mother-in-law asked him to do something for her. “It actually grew from there,” Light said. “I did some projects for her, then someone noticed that work and said, ‘Could you do this for me?’ and someone noticed that work. It really started to just take off and grow.”
When he retired in 2011, instead of switching to a desk job, he used his Army experience and interest in building furniture to start his own full-time woodworking business, Lighthouse Woodworking.
“I work primarily in American hardwoods, so I like to build with American black walnut and American black cherry,” he explained. “Part of our niche is that we build stuff to last, and if you use solid wood and something gets broken or dented or scratched, it’s repairable.”
He builds all styles of furniture — from Shaker, Queen Anne, and Aspen-type to modern and with Asian influences.
“I build what the client wants. That’s the bottom line,” Light said.
He credits his success in owning his own woodworking business to his experiences in the Army. “The Corps of Engineers ... [does] the design work, the engineering, the project management, and the contracting. I saw all of that. I saw the results of people not listening. I saw the results of poor communication,” he said. “I saw the results of poor bookkeeping. And, on the other side of the coin, when things were done properly and well, I saw great successes. The Army absolutely prepared me to do what I’m doing, both in terms of the technical skills of managing the project and the soft skills of just taking care of customers and clients and listening to people.”
Charlsy Panzino is a writer based in Idaho.