December 23, 2013 12:00 PM

EARL HURSHMAN, 81

Excelsior Springs, Mo.

After almost 50 years of marriage, Earl Hurshman finds comfort in visiting his wife Bernadette’s grave since she died in October 2011. “She loved roses, so I take her one every day,” he says. “I talk to her.” Last August Hurshman, 81, asked for guidance. “I got tired of watching television and taking walks, so I said, ‘Honey, what am I going to do with my life?’ ” he recalls. “I could hear her, and, excuse my language, she said, ‘Get off your a– and do something!’ ”

The posthumous intervention led Hurshman, a retired steel fabricator and grandfather of 10, to embrace his passion for woodworking and start building dollhouses in his basement for disadvantaged grandparents and parents to give to their children. Using almost all of his Social Security check each month (“I live modestly,” he says), Hurshman hits the local hobby store to buy dollhouse kits along with paints, materials and miniature furniture. He’s placed about a dozen dollhouses with families, whom he finds through word of mouth, and plans to give away at least 12 more this holiday season. When Craig Beasley, 40, lost his job as a seat assembler in April 2012, Hurshman’s gift of a dollhouse for his daughters Gracie, 6, and Emilie, 9, meant the world. “We felt relief and comfort, and tears of joy were shared,” says their mom, Maria, 33. “Earl would give you the shirt off his back. He really does love kids. And we love Earl.”

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