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Labrador Gallery

By: The Editors

The Labrador sculpture William Kennedy carved for Frank Jonczak's collection appears on the cover of the Summer 2015 issue.

Frank Jonczak likes Labradors. A lot. Jonczak, who lives in Bel Air, Maryland, currently has 245 full- or half-size Labradors in his collection, plus 54 cocktail birds. A total of 58 carvers have contributed to the flock. Expect those numbers to increase.

Frank started collecting decoys back in 1974, mostly decoys from Maryland’s Upper Bay region. He stopped collecting in the 1990s, opting to put his kids through college instead. When he picked it up again, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. A friend had started to focus on just pintails, and that got Frank to thinking that he could concentrate on a single species. “Then I saw a picture of a Labrador and I thought, ‘This is it,’” he says. “’This is what I’m going to focus on.’”

The Labrador, a North American diving duck, has been extinct since 1875, or at least the last known specimen was shot that year (That bird belongs to the Smithsonian Institution now). Frank says a hunter claimed to have shot a Labrador in 1879, but he ate it before it could be properly identified. Frank says he finds the story a little dubious. There are only 55 specimens in the world today.

Frank began his Labrador collection in 2007, with Ben Heinemann making the first contribution. Choosing a favorite now, Frank says, is like picking your favorite child. He does mention the work of John Lawrence, who has carved nine Labradors for him, and also that of Bill Gibin, a carver from Chincoteague, Virginia, who now lives in Germany. Reggie Birch has carved 35 Labradors for the collection, and he has done them in the styles of various classic decoy carvers. In one of the birds, Birch embedded an 1875 half dollar to commemorate the last Labrador. The most mysterious carver who has contributed to the collection is Darkwing Freedman, whom Frank has never met. He buys his work via an intermediary on eBay. “I don’t know if he works for the CIA or is in the witness protection program,” says Frank.
“I don’t know where it will end up down the road,” Frank says about his collection. “I’m just a caretaker.”

You can see a sampling of Frank’s Labrador collection below:

Frank's Labrador Collection

  1. Three by Reggie Birch.

  2. Carver: Joshua Brewer

  3. Carver: Jim Britton

  4. Carver: Bill Collins

  5. Carver: Carl Danos

  6. Carl and Regan Danos sport cocktail birds.

  7. Carver: Regan Danos

  8. Carver: Clarence Fennimore

  9. Carver: Darkfeather Freedman

  10. Carver: Bill Gibian

  11. Carver: Jamie Hand

  12. Carver: Ben Heinemann

  13. Carver: Jodie Hillman

  14. Carver: Tom Humberstone

  15. Carver: Ronald Justis

  16. Carver: Bill Kennedy

  17. Carver: Ken Kirby

  18. Carver: John Lawrence

  19. Carver: Oliver "Tuts" Lawson

  20. Carver: Danny Marshall

  21. Carver: Ned Mayne

  22. Carver: Bob Moreland

  23. Carver: Keith Mueller

  24. Carver: Frank Muller

  25. Carvers from New Jersey

  26. Carver: Bill Perry

  27. Carver: Pete Peterson

  28. Carvers: Jim and Charlie Pierce

  29. Carver: Jamie Reason

  30. Carver: Bill Schauber

  31. Carver: John Sharon

  32. Carver: Rich Smoker

  33. Carvers from St. Michaels, Maryland

  34. Carver: George Strunk

  35. Carver: Sean Sutton

  36. Carver: Spencer Tinkham

  37. Carver: William Walton

  38. Carver: Bill Wasson

  39. Carver: Ed Wozny

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