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A HOBBY TO BURY HERSELF IN?

SHARE A HOBBY TO BURY HERSELF IN?

JoAnn Carlson says her next project will be to build a coffin for herself.

Carlson just finished burying her husband in the plywood coffin she built for him during the two months before he died of cancer."At first, I thought, `If he dies before I get it done, it will be mine,' " Carlson said. "But when I got beyond a certain stage, it had to be his."

Mylon Carlson, 63, died last Friday of cancer and was buried Wednesday in the homemade coffin.

JoAnn Carlson said she decided to build her husband a coffin after pricing them at a funeral home, where hardwood caskets start at $2,400. The most inexpensive style was nearly $1,000.

"I only spent $153 on what I built, and it's gorgeous," Carlson said of her "plain, very plain" work.

The box of exterior grade plywood has a clear finish and rope handles. It is decorated with decals of fish; some poised to strike black feather jigs Carlson stapled into place.

Tracings of the hands of Carlson's daughters and grandchildren adorn the side, and on top, his wife stapled his fishing cap, a bouquet of orange silk poppies and two fishing plugs.

There's a drawing of a guitar on one end, symbolizing Mylon Carlson's love of country-Western music.

"That man could have went places" with his music, said neighbor Earl Playle. He could whistle like a bird, Playle said.

"And he was a hell of a fisherman."

Although there are no prohibitions against homemade coffins, few people opt for them, said Dave Cagley of Hazen and Jaeger Funeral Home. He said he remembers only two other homemade coffins in 23 years, and one was built by a family of cabinetmakers.

Friends said they weren't surprised that JoAnn Carlson would tackle the project. She's built toy boxes, doll cribs, cabinets and other furniture in the past.

"She's a good carpenter, you betcha," Playle said.

When Mylon Carlson was healthy, the couple often worked together on projects, family friend Karla Jared said.

"Anything they could do on their own, they did," she said. "They were very practical."

Carlson said she plans to build her own coffin then put it in storage until the time of her funeral.