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Longview man transforms mailboxes into works of art

By Christina Lane
March 16, 2014 at 10 p.m.

Mailboxes take on a new meaning in the neighborhood of Williams Road in Longview.

Simple metal letter boxes have been transformed into everything from school buses, John Deere tractors and fire trucks to barns, airplanes and helicopters - each of which has been handcrafted by Len Budai of Longview to represent their owner's personality.

"When you retire, you look for stuff to do," Budai said of his hobby, which started after he retired as the director of religious education at St. Mary's in 2000 and from Home Depot in 2007.

He's made about 15 mailboxes to date, each of which was created from recycled parts.

"These wheels came off of strollers," Budai said as he pointed to the back wheels of a John Deere mailbox he recently made. The front wheels were wood cogs.

It takes Budai about a week and a half to two weeks to construct each mailbox, which he described as being a "very precise" art because the mailbox itself must be smooth on the inside.

"All the screws have to go from the inside out because it could tear the mail or cut someone's hand," he said.

All of the mailboxes are made of recycled materials, except for the box itself - which often is also recycled.

One of the first mailboxes Budai made was an airplane that he made for the person who rented a house from him. The person renting the house told Budai that he liked airplanes, so Budai decided to start a new hobby and made his first mailbox.

Budai enjoys making items, and other projects of his include creating birdhouses. This past week, he constructed several birdhouses with the help of his grandchildren, Hunter Rogers 6, and Hope Rogers, 11, of Gladewater who were staying with he and his wife during spring break. Budai's wife, Barbara, makes stained glass and sews.

The children enjoy being part of the action.

"The kids are always saying, 'Let's do something.' It's good because it gets them to use their hands," he said.



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