As most members now know, Ken, D’Ambrosio, a founder of Ocean Woodturners and its long-time president, stepped down in December, handing over the reins to Mike Murray. I think it is an appropriate time to reflect on Ken’s accomplishments.
Ocean Woodturners had a humble beginning—in his garage-workshop (interestingly enough, his highly successful marketing firm, Cote & D’Ambrosio, also had its start in another garage on his property!) And in the spirit of Silicon Valley, the garage birth of Ocean Woodturners was equally successful.
I first met Ken through a classified ad. Ken had placed an ad in my paper looking for a buyer for an old horse of a lathe he had. He just bought the Rolls Royce of lathes—a custom made Nichols (his lovely wife, Dori, probably still doesn’t know what that cost!) and he wanted to unload the old one he had. I was looking for a used lathe and called him up. I didn’t end up buying the machine; instead I bought into a long friendship.
Ken mentioned that he and a friend, Bruce Arnold, a skilled machinist, were thinking about starting a woodturning club and he invited me to come aboard. He had gotten the idea after seeing a woodturning exhibit in Connecticut.
A little background on Ken: He came to Rhode Island after falling in love during a visit here. He had a highly successful marketing and advertising business in New York City and one day had to do a photo shoot in Newport. Driving through the state was enough to convince him he wanted to move to a more relaxing place.
Now Ken is one of those disgusting persons you sometimes meet—you know the type—whatever he does, he does well. Ken is an award winning marketing expert, an expert photographer, an expert wine-maker, an expert stone carver and expert gardener—the list goes on. Artistically inclined, he decided after seeing that Connecticut exhibit that he wanted to further explore the art of woodturning. He is now an expert woodturner.
Our first meetings in his garage-workshop were small in number but large in enthusiasm. A big meeting was 14 people. I put out newspaper notices about the fledgling club (it had no name as yet) and gradually people started joining. Interestingly some of the earliest members were people like Emilio Iannuccillo; Ernie Grimes, Bob Iuliano and John Chakuroff who came from way out of town but who were already involved in the big woodturning club in Worcester. They brought a lot of the skills and knowledge to the meetings and we all learned from them. They remain active members.
From the very beginning Ken urged the members to bring something to the table, to share knowledge. Many of us novices (I was basically a woodworker doing furniture, not a turner—I bought my lathe initially to do table legs and have yet to make one!) were reluctant to come forward. But gradually we did—Ken, ever the pitch guy, can be very persuasive.
It wasn’t long before we had to seek larger meeting quarters. In succession we moved to an old mill, then to Ray Hall’s converted stable, then to the Cold Spring Community Center and eventually ended up at Woodcraft. Even that excellent facility (and candy store) is too small sometimes. If all members on the roster ever showed up, we would have to meet in the parking lot.
The growth of Ocean Woodturners has been a wonderful experience for those of us who used to jam into Ken’s garage. Under Ken’s leadership, we began social events such as the annual outing, we have become a mainstay exhibitor at the Wickford Art Festival, we helped host a AAW symposium in Providence for which some members built a unique working steam engine out of wood, we have encouraged and supported young people getting involved in woodturning, we have put on public presentations, we have supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we have brought in world-class turners to teach us, we have witnessed many novice members come in and watched them blossom to pro-caliber, we have established relations with woodturners in England, we have become one of the most viable woodturning clubs in the country—the production of this very professional-looking newsletter under the leadership of George Nazareth and Jeff Mee is a symbol of the progress that has been made.
All of this and more would not have been possible without the creative foresight of Ken D’Ambrosio who got an idea several years ago and ran with it, bringing all of us on an enjoyable and educational journey.
All of us who enjoy working with wood, exchanging ideas and helpful hints, joining together with other hobbyists, owe Ken a great debt of gratitude.