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Labor of Love

Paradise Center bell tower gets improvements


Callie Jacobson

SHARING SKILLS - Rudi Boukal has been restoring windows for the Paradise Center bell tower. Boukal completes projects in a workshop at his Thompson Falls home.

The Paradise Center has gone through quite a few improvements recently. Behind the effort to replace aged and broken window and louver units in the center's bell tower is Rudi Boukal of Thompson Falls. Boukal, who was born and raised in Germany, has been a member of the Sanders County Arts Council (SCAC) since 2013 and has donated his time and skills for various jobs. He built a whole set of painters' easels for the art classroom, audience risers for the auditorium and a table for the model train station and tie-plant to sit on. 

Boukal came to the United States when he was 18 and was in the seminary for 10 years. After leaving, he didn't know what he was going to do with his life. There was an opening in a cabinet shop class at St. Paul Technical Vocational Institute, which is a two-year trade course in Minnesota. Boukal enrolled because he always had an interest in woodworking and after finishing the program, he started his own business servicing the surrounding area. It started with calls for different pieces of church furniture and soon Boukal had around eight employees working under him. 

The church furniture business became more and more unstable with the price of lumber and larger competing industries moving in that Boukal decided to take a break from woodworking and go into law, becoming a paralegal in real estate for the next 8 years.

"I was walking down the street after seven or eight years and I looked in a window and thought... I could make that myself," Boukal commented. "But I didn't like the professional world, I always liked the labor."

Boukal still works professionally three months out of the year, building additions or mud rooms, for instance, but his passion is composing music on the piano. He arranges for singers who send him their vocals and then they meet in Minnesota to record. Boukal has also arranged music for short videos. A children's story video that was 32 minutes long made it all the way to Myrtle Beach Film Festival. Boukal spends around eight hours a day composing his music. 

Callie Jacobson

MULTIMEDIA - Boukal says his passion is music. He spends several hours a day composing music on the piano.

From a small town in Germany called Hertzberg that shares similarities with the Thompson Falls landscape, Boukal felt at home when he visited. 

"It was like coming home for me, the small town, it's what I like, it's what I'm used to, it just felt good to be here," Boukal said of deciding to make Thompson Falls home. 

After about six months of being in Thompson Falls, Boukal met Doris Larson, who turned him toward joining the SCAC when her son David Larson was tuning his piano. With the SCAC, Boukal works to arrange all the performances that come to the Paradise Center and negotiates the contracts with the artists. It was through a grant from the Montana History Foundation that the Paradise Center received money to buy supplies and compensate for Boukal to start restoration on the bell tower.  


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