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May 3, 2003

Birdhouses keep soldier's mother busy

From: Massillon Independent, OH - May 3, 2003

Independent Staff Writer

With her eyes glued to the non-stop television coverage of the war in Iraq,
Karen Kovach sensed the tension building within herself.

Kovach feared what might happen to her son, Joshua Vazquez, a member of the
U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division, which led the charge into Baghdad
several weeks ago.

The unemployed Massillon resident finally decided she needed to find an
activity that would divert her attention from the war.

She settled on the first idea that came to her - patriotic bird houses.

"The idea just popped into my head," she said. "I was scared. I didn't want
to lose him (her son). I only have one baby."

And what started as a way to keep busy is becoming profitable. Kovach, who
is deaf, already has sold 60 bird houses to family and friends.

Dee McMasters, Kovach's mother, has been surprised by her daughter's success
and she knows it's helped her cope with the anxiety over her son, a 1996
Fairless High graduate.

McMasters said she spoke briefly with Vazquez by phone about a month ago.
The family isn't sure when he will be coming home.

"I had about a two-minute conversation with him," McMasters said.

The bird houses are going for $10 each while Kovach's other craft item,
beaded U.S.A. key chains, are being sold for $2 each.

The sale of the crafts has helped Kovach cover the cost of her car payment
and insurance. McMasters, who lives with Kovach, handles the rent and

"It's amazing how many I've sold. I take two or three to work with me every
day," said McMasters, a cashier in the cafeteria at Massillon Community

The job market is tight enough given the state of the economy, but factor in
Kovach's deafness and the odds of landing a job are slim, McMasters said.

Kovach, who attended McKinley High, which offers classes for the deaf, has
filled out close to 30 job applications but hasn't received any responses.
She has been seeking a job since November, when she was laid off from the
former Century Products plant in Perry Township.

"I'm going to retire," Kovach joked. "It's hard for a deaf person to get a

But the bird houses are keeping Kovach busy for now. Her hearing impairment,
McMasters said, actually is a benefit to producing her crafts.

"She really concentrates. She'll sit here for hours," McMasters said. "She
was up until 3:30 a.m. the other morning."

The bird houses come in several designs and sizes. Squat ones with blue
roofs and stars. Cylindrical ones with red, white and blue-striped roofs.
Taller ones sit half-finished on a table.

"We get the bird houses up at the Flower Factory and she paints them,"
McMasters said. "She just thinks them up (designs)."

Kovach lost her hearing after she contracted chicken pox as an infant. The
virus triggered a high fever, McMasters said, that settled in her daughter's

McMasters explored the possibility of implants but discovered they would not
be effective because of the nerve damage in Kovach's ears.

However, Kovach is able to hear high pitch sounds, such as police and fire
sirens, if she wears hearing aids.

Kovach said she plans to continue her new found hobby that is helping her
make ends meet.

"I have to make a car payment. I don't want to lose my car," she said. "If I
don't have a car, it will drive me crazy."

Copyright © 2003 The Independent