The woodworking industry has lost a very valuable member. Neil Lamens of Brookhaven , NY passed away on Wednesday, September 19th of complications from esophageal cancerat the age of 57. He actually beat the esophagus cancer with treatment, diagnosed back in early 2011, but the cancer spread into his lungs and other areas. He handled it all the same way he handled life, with a positive attitude, living life to the fullest right up until the end.
According to Neil’s nephew Cody Lamens, “Neil was in between his first round of chemo and the esophageal surgery. Doc’s wanted to do an aggressive round of chemo before the surgery to get the cancer to a manageable place. Here is his tweet about it. Just from the tweet you can see the determination he showed everyday.” Neil was enjoying one of the things he loved to do most, swimming. It was almost like he was saying, don’t tell me I can’t do this, just watch me!
Most of all, Neil was a husband to Gigi for 34 years. Neil and Gigi (left at Tommy Mac’s wedding) met in elementary school, started dating in junior high school early in their teens and have been best friends and partners ever since. Cody mentioned, “They referred to each other as “buddy” quite often.” And, “Neil made sure to have breakfast with Gigi each and every morning, as they were very much in love with each other and inseparable.”
Gigi was a huge supporter of Neil and his work. She was always behind the camera, shooting Neil’s Furnitology Production videos.
Neil attended West Islip High School. He went on to Oswego State University of NY, studying in the industrial arts program earning his undergraduate degree. From there, he attended Pace University for his MBA in Finance and International Finance. Additional bio information can be found on Neil’s Furnitology “About” page.
Neil’s secondary passion was woodworking. Neil knew furniture in-depth through reading, absorbing information so he could name the pieces and tell you all about it. If someone named a book, he read it. His manufacturing knowledge led to his woodshop practices creating special high quality products from plywood and veneer builds. According to Cody, “There was a time when Neil couldn’t get good plywood, so he made his own and sold it to the smaller shops in need.” Cody told us, “Neil taught me woodworking and helped me get my EllaMenoPea Children’s Furniture Business off the ground. He told me confidently to make the decision and just go do it.”
Neil was a fan of modern clean line design furniture, following the collections of Wendell Castle. Neil knew everything about design and how to use it. He knew how to take an MDF design and create something beautiful from it. According to Neil’s friend and colleague, Justin DiPalma (www.craftedheirlooms.com), “Neil knew how to take an MDF design and create something beautiful from it. He wrote a lot of articles, knew what design was and how to use it.” He had the ability to think outside the box. One time Neil used a vacuum bag to bend a piece of wood, keeping it in there until it was formed.” Justin also said of his friend, “Neil knew it was time for his generation of woodworkers to move aside and let up and coming talent in. It was time for breaking out of the mold with new manipulation and redesign for the modern day furniture builds. His beliefs were exemplified in his own work at Furnitology Productions.”
Neil was a huge friend and supporter of Tommy MacDonald and the PBS show, Rough Cut-Woodworking with Tommy Mac and appeared as a guest on Season One, Episode 8, Keepsake Jewelry Box at Tommy’s shop. Tommy expressed, “Neil was a kind, funny, and loyal friend and I was blessed to have him in my life, his words of wisdom went way beyond woodworking.. He was one of those guys who brought out the best in people around him.. he was a very bright light …I will miss him”
From McLaughlin Woods, Tom writes, “I was stunned to read this news last night…which struck me because I only got to know Neil during those four days when we first met at the Wood Expo in 2011 and considered him a good friend. He was the kind of guy you like immediately…full of enthusiasm, twinkle in his eye, humor and passion for the moment. I remember our lively conversations, he had that unusual gift of listening with the same intensity as when he was speaking…you could feel the love from the guy…a great example for me. When retuning to Wood Expo earlier this year, I think I was most disappointed when I learned he would not be there. I missed him then…I miss him more now.”
Neil was loved and appreciated by many, like Scott Morton (www.scottmorton.com). Scott reflected, “Neil reached out to encourage me in furniture making – from my design to manufacture. I didn’t solicit him, but he reached out to *me*. That’s how much Neil cared about his business and helping other people trying to accomplish similar goals together. He was the most passionate person I’ve met, by far, about helping others be successful in making american furniture.”
From Rick Waters of Sawdust Chronicles,“Neil had the ability to see our potential, and communicate it to us in his unique style of acknowledgement mixed with a heaping portion of unsatisfied encouragement. His laughter and comedic style was contagious. Neil was never afraid to tell you what he thought about something/someone, but his criticisms always included suggestions of how to make things/people better. Neil’s passion for design didn’t stop at furniture, you could see him trying to help you improve yourself – he never believed any design was complete/done. I’ll miss Neil greatly.”
Berkshire Veneer Company’s Ben Barrett emails, “The first time I met Neil was at Build Boston. He welcomed me with open arms as though he’d known me forever. While his physical stature may have been intimidating, his warm heart and gentle giant mannerisms were quite the contrary. The world was a better place with Neil in it, and we’ll all miss him.”
This video shows Neil’s passion for American woodworking, business, mentoring, sharing and giving back to new talents in the industry. This is truly who he was and what he was about. Taken at the 2010 Wood Expo at the New England Home Show at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center, we would like to share with you and dedicate this video to Neil.
Another friend and colleague, Rob Bois (www.newtonwoodworking.com) stated, “I still have very vivid memories of this day and the impact it had on me at the time. I owe a lot to Neil for giving me confidence, encouraging me to push my limits, and inspiring me. For that, he will always be remembered. The woodworking community as a whole is forever indebted to him.”
Neil started his first Furnitology Productions series of educational woodworking films with this video,
Neil’s teachings and beliefs will long be remembered by his friends, colleagues and woodworking community.
Service Information for Neil:
Date: Saturday, Sept 22nd
Robertaccio Funeral Home, Inc.
85 Medford Avenue
Patchogue, NY 11772
Gigi shared, “I know that coming all the way here will not be possible for many. So, if there is anyone who would like to make a donation, I have established the Neil Lamens Fund for Athletics at St. Joseph’s College where he spent time everyday. He really knew all the students, went to many games, worked out with them…and was well known and well respected. So…if anyone wants to make a donation instead of flowers, checks are made out to St. Joseph’s College with a note accompanying stating that the donation is to be applied to the Neil Lamens Fund.”
“Thank you all for giving Neil some of the best times and memories ever!”…Gigi
Donation Address for Neil Lamens Fund, Established by Gigi Lamens:
St. Joseph’s College
155 West Roe Blvd
Patchogue, NY 11772
Attn: Nancy Conners