Tony Giglio Jr. is the Chief of Staff

So, a funny thing happened to my dad during retirement: He can’t stop working. Whether he’s tending the grounds of our beloved “compound” — the facetious name we call my parents’ home because it is aspirational in so many ways — or building something — anything — with wood, the man barely sleeps.

About a year ago he found inspiration in a friend-of-a-friend’s collection of hand-carved walking sticks and had a thought: “I could make those! And I could make ’em even better!”

And so his journey began, walking all over town, in and out of parks, neighbors’ yards, scavenging and harvesting enormous fallen branches, and then figuring out the process day by day.

It’s actually pretty amazing what he’s accomplished without formal training. My Dad has been working with his hands since he was a carpenter’s assistant at age 12. A skilled craftsman, he (more or less) ran his own Home Improvement business until he retired nine years ago.

Dad intuitively, methodically and lovingly breathes new life into each branch as he handcrafts these gifts of nature into walking sticks that are functional works of art and unique treasures.

First, he carefully strips off the bark and allows the branches to dry in the sun for up to two weeks. Then he feels his way into sanding and shaping each stick before intuitively carving it. This allows each design to speak for itself — and to tell its unique story. In many ways, each stick is a total improvisation, worthy of a mention on The Improvised Life (hint!).
The painstaking lacquering process takes about eight hours, as my dad carefully applies four coats of varnish by hand. Then he finishes each stick with handles, footings, straps, and, sometimes, beads.

Most finishes are interchangeable, depending on the type of wood. And his walking sticks are easily modified for height and comfort once you have chosen the stick that speaks to you.

My father has gotten so much positive feedback — and demand for sticks — we’ve decided to show them off at the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival on Sunday, September 30, 2012. We’ve even made a banner to mount on our tent that says: “Chief of Staff: Hand-Carved Walking Sticks by Tony Giglio.” The Festival takes place from 11am to 6pm on Washington St., between Observer Highway and 7th Streets. Over 300 Artists, Crafters, Photographers, Sculptors, Local Businesses, Restaurants, Food Vendors, local non-profits and more will participate. Rain or shine – Admission is Free. 

I’m sure my dad would be thrilled to see you there to tell you all about how he does this, as well as to size you up for a stick of your own. One caveat: We won’t know where to pitch our tent until Sunday morning, but you can text me for our “Chief of Staff” tent location at 917-767-5554.

And while you’re there, Dad will no doubt tell you about the beautiful walking sticks he sent to the White House, and the letter he received from Sam Kass, Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives.

The envelope itself impressed my Dad when it arrived. But the letter inside, on “Let’s Move” stationary from The Office of the First Lady,  has him beaming.

Born and raised in Jersey City, my Dad believes that the best things in life are made — and shared — by hand .

If you’d like to talk to the Chief of Staff, contact me at

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  • guest

    I am SO PROUD of my cousin! I never fail to learn something new each time I read one of Anthony’s articles!! But this is one of the best!!! Those sticks are so beautiful!

  • Anthony

    I bought two sticks this summer so of course I think im central to his success LOL LOL

  • Cousin Janet

    What a great story and inspirational for all retired seniors who don’t know what to do with themselves once they stop working.  I can’t get to Hoboken on the 30th but maybe one day Tony will exhibit at the Virginia Beach Art Show – and for sure I will buy a walking stick!  

  • Toni Marie

    Cousin “Junnie” you are so darn cool! You really found a nitch with these sticks! Keep smiling that beautiful smile!

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