DAYTON, Tenn. - Twenty-five years ago, John Sprankell, a former U.S. Navy officer, and his wife, Anna, used their artistic talents to embark on a journey that has strengthened their faith and marriage.
As 72-year-old semiretirees, the Sprankells haven't chosen a carefree lifestyle. Instead, they spend their days assembling a child's toy that has touched more than 25,000 lives.
The finesse used by both to create each toy has taught them life lessons along the way on how to "live more by faith," John said, no matter the hardships or circumstances they might encounter.
That faith, more than 36 years ago, he said, led this happily single naval bachelor to marry a florist and mother of three.
The two met while living in Ohio and married in 1977. The former serviceman and craftsman spent 23 years in manufacturing, which helped him find a job at La-Z-Boy after moving his family in 1985 to Dayton.
To supplement their income, the two started making smaller, country crafts in the upstairs bedroom of a spacious garage at their home. When given the chance to buy the home, the couple seized it and turned the garage into the family business' workshop and office.
In 1986, a limited budget for Christmas presents left John pondering the dilemma of not purchasing plastic toys, which he didn't consider "a good use of God's money," for his youngest daughter. He and his wife soon crafted their first rocking horse, nearly 3 feet high and detailed with pink and ivory swirls and roses.
By spring 1987, he had orders from other people and began the rocking-horse business called All His Horses.
In 1995, after 10 years of juggling a full-time job with his passion for self-employment, he retired to pursue the joint venture with his wife.
Anna continues to use her attention for detail to give each toy its personality, while John's persistent discipline and passion for woodworking energize this thriving business.
An innocent child's smile, whether in the 50 states or 13 countries they deliver, along with their courage and determination helped turn a child's toy into a "rocking" business.
John said his motto, "I'll build them. You (God) sell them," has served him well.
Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.