WINONA, Minn. — You may have seen it for sale on Facebook or Craigslist in Winona.
“Handcrafted semi traditional toe pincher coffins,” the description says. “They make an excellent conversation piece coffee table, with storage, until needed for official use.”
If that wasn’t intriguing and kind of creepy enough a description, wait until you meet the maker.
With a smile always hidden in the corner of his mouth and humor as dry as the wood he uses, Winona County resident Barry Coleman is quite the character and coffin maker.
His hobby start when his son went to college in the Twin Cities for movie production and called up Dad — a hobby woodworker — and asked him to make a coffin for a movie.
Coleman agreed without a second thought, possibly with ulterior motives since he had told his wife, Peggy, years earlier that he’d like to make his own coffin.
He then spent 40 to 60 hours creating one.
With precise cuttings, oak wood and rope handles, Coleman soon had created a full-size coffin big enough for his son to lie down in. He even tested it out by lifting it up a bit and shaking his son around in it to make sure it was steady.
“It was really creepy when our son stood up in it,” Coleman’s wife, Peggy, said with an eye roll and a laugh.
Coleman made sure to layer on several coats of polyurethane in case it was ever officially used.
“If you used it to bury uncle Fred, you don’t want him oozing out the top,” Coleman said.
After Coleman finished the coffin, he took it up to the Twin Cities in his van, drawing tons of looks which weren’t made better when Coleman convinced his son to pinch his nose and roll down the window as people drove by. Coleman ended up loving the process so much that he started work on another one, Winona Daily News reported.
It’s turned into a beloved hobby which very well may overtake his “first love” of taxidermy — he still has a few deer heads that have been sitting his freezer for quite a while.
“It’s a piece of art,” Coleman said about the coffins. “And I’m ready to make the next one.”
But first he needs to sell the ones he has, which led to the interesting Facebook post and sales pitch. Coleman and his wife have been coming up with some interesting ideas for how they could be used.
Book shelf. Coffee table. Storage for blankets, similar to a chest.
“Maybe at the foot of the bed or something,” Peggy said. “That would be a bit creepy though.”
Coleman did get a few bites and is hoping to empty his garage and dig into the next one.
“Hopefully the next one isn’t mine,” he said with a gruff laugh. “But if it is, I’m ready.”
Thankfully no one in his family has had to put the coffins to use.
“Well not too close,” he said a bit more solemnly.
Since April of last year, Peggy has been battling breast cancer. Her last treatment was in June.
While talking about his wife, the dark humored man’s optimism and faith in his wife’s ability to fight cancer came through.
“Never once did I think I’d put her in it,” he said.
She’d want something more fancy anyway, he joked.
“She’d haunt me,” he said, while laughing.
For himself, though, he’d love nothing more than to be buried in one.
“I’d hope they’d use a (coffin) liner,” he said. “Eh, dad’s dead, throw him in the ditch.”
Coleman paused. Shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s fun,” he said. “And the inevitable is coming.”