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Pa. longtime coal sculptor moving out of state

Associated Press Published: November 23, 2012

ASHLAND, Pa. (AP) — Children were once punished with coal in their stockings.

However, Len S. Kimmel, 79, of Fountain Springs, prefers when people give it as a gift. And over many years, he has turned coal dust and rice coal into jewelry and paperweights shaped like penguins and pigs.

"I loved doing it and going out to be a vendor at shows and meeting people," Kimmel said.

For more than 15 years, Kimmel has been crafting coal sculptures, using coal dust, rice coal, epoxy and molds, and selling his work at Schuylkill County shopping malls.

This year will be bittersweet, he said, since it may be the last time he will set up a stand in Schuylkill County. He and his wife, Arlene, are planning to move to Maryland to be closer to their four sons.

"That breaks my heart," Elaine Maneval, manager of Schuylkill Mall, Frackville, said when she heard the news Nov. 16. "He's been a Black Diamond vendor since they opened 14 years ago. They were opened before I came here and I've been here 13 years. He and his wife, they're such a sweet couple," Maneval said.

"She's a super gal, Elaine. I've been friends with her for many, many years," Kimmel said.

Kimmel said he will continue to sell his products at Black Diamond Antiques in the mall's north wing. For the holidays, he set up a stand in the mall's Food Court, near the customer service booth in the west wing. It opens today and will remain open for six weeks through the holiday season.

Born in Weishample on Sept. 15, 1933, Kimmel graduated from Hegins High School in 1951. He served in the Army for 24 years and retired from the military in 1976 with the rank of sergeant first class E7.

He worked various jobs over the years including a stint from 1977 to 1987 as a driver for Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md.

In 1984, he and his wife, Arlene, a Frackville native, moved to Fountain Springs to be closer to her family, and he developed an interest in wood carving and staining.

"My dad was a carpenter. My brother was a carpenter and finisher and I was born and raised on a farm, so you learn how to do everything. And I used to make clocks as well as furniture, like end tables, out of cypress," Kimmel said.

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