Craftsman's Interfaith Altar is a work of love and beauty

November 12, 1998
By Joann E. Buhler, Monitor Correspondent

photo from the article

HOLMDEL – As one enters the serene, new Interfaith Chapel at Bayshore Community Hospital, the beauty of the special place is immediately felt.

Part of this beauty includes a handcrafted altar which faces rows of blue upholstered seats. On an elegant blue rug sits the contemporary maple altar which is one of the focal points of the calming and inspiring space. Jim Frechette, a member of St. Catherine's parish, is the craftsman who created the altar.

A graduate of Holmdel High School, he studied the special skills required to change the natural beauty of wood into even more beautiful objects at John C. Calhoun College in Decatur, Alabama.

He said he specifically chose the college because it had an excellent program in woodworking, and he wanted to actually work with wood rather than "only study design." The specialized college gave him a chance to major in cabinetmaking and millwork.

After college, he worked in Springfield, Mass., at Commercial Millwork where he continued to hone his craft. Later, he worked in a custom woodworking shop in Red Bank, Custom Woodwork. He now owns his own shop, J.B. Frechette, Woodworking, in Red Bank.

Karen Sanders, director of Pastoral Care at Bayshore Community Hospital, played a role in having Frechette create the chapel altar, which she called a "a sight to behold."

She and her husband had Frechette do some woodwork in their own home. When the project came up for the hospital chapel, she said, she recalled how impressed she was with the work of her fellow parishioner at St. Catherine's Church.

Frechette said the hospital came to him with a previous plan, so he used some of the original plan, and the hospital selected what they liked best.

He said maple was chosen because "it is a light colored wood with a good grain pattern." The 4-by-4 foot altar is stands 36 inches high and sits on four exquisitely crafted legs which are showcase for Frechette's talent with contemporary design. The altar is finely finished with lacquer.

Karen Sanders called the altar, "one of a kind, there is none other like it" and she praised Frechette as a "talented young craftsman who labored on it."

He also labors on work for this other clients, and said, "sometimes they find it hard to describe a style, but they will know it when they see it" so he makes drawings for them. His craft extends to creating fireplace mantels, bookcases, entertainment centers and even library walls. He doesn't advertise because he said he has been "so busy by word of mouth" referrals.

Transcribed from original print article from The Monitor.