I sat across the finely crafted, reclaimed wood table from Pat Strimpfel of Reclamation By Design and Reclamation Building Materials, Inc. The crisp, clean building smells of earthy woods, installed by Ron, her master-craftsman husband of 39 years. I am especially intrigued with the Pecky Sinker Cypress used as the crown moulding. The cypress was reclaimed from the bottom of a river (hence the term sinker) where it once floated during its travels from harvest to mill many years ago. The tree itself is more than 125-years-old. During the milling process, the Strimpfels were excited to discover that a fungus had eaten through the tree's flesh like a worm, forming tubular pockets that create the extraordinary and rare pecky wood, which is bold, intricate, and striking. Pat likes to share the history of "where it lived before" whether at the bottom of a river or from an old abandoned barn or factory.
After battling the horrendous blizzards of '77 and '78 in Ohio, Pat's husband thought there had to be someplace better to build houses. "Someone told us about Hilton Head Island and we said let's check it out. At age 22, we were young and fearless and thought we could do anything. We bought a lot in Palmetto Dunes for $13,000 and built a spec home, which sold immediately, and also built two homes for friends from Ohio. We said we would leave if we ran out of work. It's been 33 years, and we haven't run out yet."
Falling in love with the Lowcountry, its weather, and people also kept the Strimpfels here. Their inspiration is that they love what they do. "I love coming to work. I love the people I interact with. We are so proud of all of our projects. We look at them as our personal homes." She also credits her husband with great integrity and creativity in his work.
During our time together, I couldn't help but think that Pat could be a stand-in double for Meryl Streep, her giggle is even Merylesque. "That's humbling. I admire her and like her a lot," she replied. Pat is slim, healthy, and determined to live well into her nineties. "I grew up on a farm in Ohio, and my father, who is 86, still farms. We go back every June to help bale hay. My kids are impressed with how strong their grandpa is. We come from good genes."
Not only is her family physically strong, they also come from a good heritage that was generated by hard working, caring, and passionate parents raised during the depression era. "My kids have been grounded in something strong, and when life throws them a curve and they struggle, they're going to have their roots to help them through it." Pat's very proud of her four kids and two grandchildren. "They're good kids and they all love each other. That's the blessing, they're there for each other." Her second oldest daughter is living in Columbia, SC while her husband finishes school. "He has one more year and then they will move back and we will all be together." Pat is very determined for her family to live close to each other.
Pat's devotion to her family and her work has made for a very happy and fulfilling life. She also finds happiness in her ability to see the blessings around her. She attends mass everyday because she feels there is always someone or something to pray for. "It helps me focus." She continues, "I feel privileged to be married to a great guy and to have a wonderful family." Her happiness and gratitude glow within her and show in her ease, grace, and humility. Pat and her husband build family and spirit, as well as beautiful homes.
Her best advice: "Find something to be grateful for everyday, no matter how small."
Hidden Talent: "I was a baton twirler (since age eight). I was the lead twirler in high school and started teaching it at 16. This was my first exposure to being an entrepreneur, which paid my way through college. It taught me to be very organized, and prepared me for our businesses."
Leadership: She holds a seat on the board of the Hilton Head Area Home Builder's Association.
Biggest influence: "My mom is my inspiration and I want to emulate her. She has devoted herself to her family, is extremely forgiving, and doesn't hold a grudge. She also taught me my best lesson: We have to make our own happiness."
Interesting Fact: Built the iconic Tiki Hut back in the 1980s.