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The Soul Provider

The Soul Provider

There are some people that walk this earth that appear to be a thousand feet tall. Their spirits, like fire, burn with such profound intensity that it radiates into all of those around them. The power of vibrant positive energy is simply unstoppable - even in the face of the darkest days.


We lost the most important man in lacrosse last week. Alf Jacques was one of those people that to me embodied not just everything I love about the game of lacrosse, but everything I love about having the opportunity to live and breathe as a human being. He used his hands to feed his family. He followed a path that was true, honest and passion filled - one that supported his beliefs and never compromised them. He was kind, creative and genuine.

 Photo by Michael Greenlar

There's a bridge that spans the wide river of time. One side firmly planted in the past and the other here and now. The heroes, the stories, the legends, the essence, the soul - the bridge in every way connects us to them. As the world keeps spinning and the days go by, the river only widens and the flowing water can carve into the supporting pillars. In some cases, erosion over time can cause a collapse and sadly the bridge gets washed away - the connection lost.


Luckily, in the case of this game, we’ve had stewards like Alf. He possessed such a power that he not only managed to carry the weight of the bridge but he inspired others to lend a hand - myself included. Bridge maintenance and building was his life’s work, his tool was a draw shave.

Photo by Michael Greenlar 

I encourage every single lacrosse player out there to watch the video clip below - if you’ve already seen it watch it again. This is my personal favorite piece of lacrosse footage that exists. I remember the very first time I saw this it changed everything for me. There are still plenty of people out there that feel lacrosse is primarily a “boat shoes and knitted sweater tied around the neck” sport. That couldn’t be further from the origin so of course that perception is totally inaccurate.



When I saw this footage I was very young and I remember wanting to show this to every person that I knew. This is what I loved about the game, this is why I felt so lucky to be a lacrosse player. This is what it was all about to me, this is as cool as it gets. 


When someone mentions the word lacrosse, the very first face I see is his. He was an absolute rock star in my eyes and he will forever stay that way. I was fortunate to get to know him personally and each interaction always felt natural. Our conversations were never forced and rarely related to playing the game of lacrosse at all. We mostly talked about making things, our families and trees. He was always warm, witty, genuine and engaged.

Photo by Michael Greenlar 

I bought my first house when I was twenty one and at that point in my life all I owned was a stereo and a mattress. I could barely afford the house but I knew that I wanted to own something - a small piece of the planet that I could call mine. I moved the stereo and the mattress into the place and went to the furniture store to furnish my house. I left the store with nothing, I couldn’t afford anything. Being a young person I had no idea how expensive the world is when you rely on others to make things for you.


I started saving money and instead of returning to the furniture store I used the money to buy tools. I had no real knowledge of woodworking, upholstery, welding, etc… but I was fascinated by all of it. I devoured books, went to furniture shows, watched videos and spoke with actually master craftsmen. 

The artist that I looked up to the most was Roy Simmons Jr., who had incredible knowledge when it came to sculpting, proportion and the creative life as a whole. He turned me on to makers like George Nakashima, Tommy Simpson, Wendell Castle and Wharton Esherik.

He always encouraged me to look to the work of his friend Alf as a source of inspiration and dedication to craft - and so I did.


Over time I was able to furnish my entire home from kitchen countertops to bed frames. This was one of the most important lessons for me to learn. Aside from the money saving and the obvious cool aspect of custom building furniture to my liking - it was the freedom that I experienced being in control. From tree to finish it was only up to me - I relied on no one so every little step mattered and I was connected to it all the way through. I started to find that being in my shop making things was where I belong and where I’m most at peace.


I know from our talks that Alf had this similar feeling and we connected on that level. We both had an appreciation for controlling our own schedules and working with a natural material like wood.

Michael Greenlar

I had known and admired Alf for as long as I can remember but it wasn’t until about seven years ago that I had the opportunity to attend one of his demonstrations at the Onondaga Historical Society. Being a life long lacrosse fanatic it was the most refreshing thing I’d ever witnessed. It really got me thinking, especially now that my Brothers and I have a lacrosse stick company, that we have a real responsibility. It’s so much bigger than dollars and cents.


You can read my account of that experience here


I went home after leaving Alf’s demonstration and got my hands on a hickory log. I split it with wedges, built a steamer, shaving horse and a bending jig. I had to try and bend a stick myself. I felt like I owed it to the game to understand what it takes to make a traditional stick. I had no intentions of ever making more than one because of what that stick represents but I just had to try it. 


Here I was a thirty year old guy that had made a life in lacrosse and didn’t have a real understanding of what it takes to make a stick the traditional way. It felt slimy for me to enter a business that sells lacrosse sticks without experiencing this. Without an understanding of where the game came from how can you possibly expect to do a good job pushing it forward?


And just like building my own furniture if gave me an incredible amount of respect for the art of stick making - especially Alf’s.

 Photo by Michael Greenlar

The lacrosse world will sorely miss Alf Jacques and his dedication to traditional stick making. I will miss our lovely conversations especially our last one in January. Luckily, I was able to share my feelings with him on how much he meant to me and how much I admired him as a person and as an artist. We both had tears in our eyes.


They say that a hickory tree can grow to be 120 feet tall and live for up to 300 years. I disagree. Alf Jacques, with his heart, head and hands found a way to make a hickory live forever. He leaves behind a world full of the most thoughtfully crafted and skillfully carved lacrosse sticks in history. May we all learn a lesson from Alf and continue to maintain the bridge  and be pillars. Our legends, our heroes, their stories, their legacies - deserve to be remembered and revered. Without the past there is no future.


I will miss you Alfie, thank you for showing me how its done.

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