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Mystery toymaker find delights kids

Maricia Sheets and Karissa Ogden share their thank you letters with Alan Jeans.

March 23, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

by Patricia Swan Smith
For the Pathfinder
photos by
Kim Bezanson


When Linda Bowers saw the wonderful wooden toys that had been donated to the Seeley Elementary PTA's Christmas Store, she asked who donated them. She wanted to buy some. No one knew.

"The toys were incredible," Bowers said. "If you had to pay for them they would cost $30 or $40 apiece. And we had no idea where they came from."

So the search began, and Bowers ended up running an ad in the Pathfinder:

"To the gentleman who donated the wooden toys for the Christmas Store, please contact Seeley Lake Elementary School. The toys were of outstanding quality and your kind gesture was overwhelming. I would like to purchase some toys for my students."

The mystery man read the ad, and showed up at the elementary school with 15 of his home-made wooden toys for Linda Bower's kindergarten class.

"I don't sell them," Alan Jeans said. "They're a hobby, and giving them to the kids is far more rewarding than any money could be."

Last year he saw flyers around town requesting donations for the PTA Christmas Store, and he was glad to take part.

Jeans moved to Seeley two years ago. He spent many years as a chiropractor, but due to a disability he could no longer practice. He said he had a "fantasy" about being able to build wooden toys for years, and after he moved here he decided to fulfill that fantasy.

"I bought books and videos and tools," he said. "I read the manuals on how to use the tools. Almost took off three fingers learning how to use them. Never do what Norm Abrams on the New Yankee Workshop does. It only works on TV. I'm slowly learning how to make stuff, and I really enjoy having an outlet for it."

By an outlet he means children. He just sent a box full of his toys to his sister who is a second grade teacher in California. And now he's working on toys to donate to the Seeley PTA Christmas Store this year.

While he says he's just learning, the planes, trucks, teeter tatter (complete with teddy bears), cradle and other toys shine with perfection. His logging truck is even complete with a load of logs.

After he delivered the toys to the kindergarten class, the class made thank you cards for him. They drew a picture of their favorite toy, and they invited him back once again to receive his cards and a letter of appreciation.

"I was just overwhelmed by his generosity," Bowers said. "They were a gift from the heart. He's just a super guy."

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