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Montana craftsman seek help in time of need

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Posted at 9:47 AM, Apr 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 11:26:18-04

Rich Holstein is a craftsman from Fromberg who has made a name for himself building furniture and picture frames from the wood floors that he tore out of the most iconic building in Yellowstone National Park almost two decades ago.

He’s donated a lot of the frames to charities, which have raised a lot of money over the years, but now he needs some help himself. Four years ago, he was working hard, trying to reach his lifetime goal of giving $400,000 to charity from frames he made and donated.

“I know in my career I made over 55,000 rustic picture frames with probably 35 to 40,000 frames out of Old Faithful Inn,” Holstein says.

The frames that bear his signature were constructed from the old maple and fir floors that Holstein tore out of the Old Faithful Inn when renovation began on it back in 2004. It’s kept him going for almost 20 years.

“I’m forever stamped in Yellowstone history. I created a legacy,” he says.

He’s long had a gift of being able to build things with his hands, but taking old wood and turning it into something unique is truly a passion for him.

“It means more than just a picture frame. It brings about a feeling inside, and call it a for the love of Yellowstone feeling,” he says.

But Holstein will now have to set his love of building aside. “I have to stop because of the pain. One hour of work puts me laid up for a day. I can’t even work anymore. It’s heartbreaking,” he says, almost in tears.

He’s had to undergo 20 surgeries in recent years and has spent 18 months in the hospital — two shoulder replacements, four knee surgeries, and five surgeries on his ribs that keep breaking. Doctors don’t know why.

“I broke my first rib walking from the bedroom to the living room. Dropped right to the floor. I started crying like a sissy. You don’t hear of anyone breaking ribs spontaneously for no reason,” he says.

It’s not just his ribs that are breaking. Holstein says his heart is breaking as well to have to quit doing what he loves, but the surgeries have taken a toll on him physically and financially. Still, he knows he made a difference building all those frames in more ways than one.

“I have diverted one million pounds from the landfill — a million pounds myself — you look at that and go wow—and the EPA noticed it. In 2007 they gave me the environmental achievement award for my outside-of-the-box thinking in recycling in our national parks,” he said.

And that goal of raising $400,000 for charities? Holstein says he’s now surpassed that with $414,000, along with spreading money around.

“Old Faithful Inn is now in all 50 states and 22 countries around the world. Think about that. How many buildings in the world can you think that actually happened? I think of 100 years from now and someone is going to turn that frame over and they are going to look at the certificate and my signature on the frame—who is that guy that did that?" he said.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Rich with his expenses.