SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. — Paul Heuer now lives his best life because of his worst day.
- Paul Heuer, 76, creates intricate dollhouses for vulnerable children
- He started making them after a cancer diagnosis 15 years ago
- It's a labor of love for Heuer, who makes them out of pocket
"They said I had three days to live," he says of the conversation 15 years ago.
The raspy-voiced general contractor got a diagnosis of throat cancer. That led to several surgeries. His larynx was removed.
But the experience gave the business-building workaholic some perspective about how he treated others in the daily grind.
"I probably stepped on a lot of toes," Heuer says. "However, I learned after my own business and getting cancer, to give it back."
Now, Heuer tinkers away on window panes, doors and roofs.
"There is a story behind every one," he says.
But he isn't working on actual houses. They're dollhouses.
He says his nickname is "Dollhouse Man."
"Every dollhouse is different," Heuer says. "I have never made one the same."
Dollhouses, fire stations, ships — each given away for free to abused, homeless, or orphaned children. Any vulnerable child.
"I think people should reach out to those kids and give them more attention, because that is what they never got," Heuer says.
From the outside to the inside, they are each unique all the way down to the handmade furniture.
"I just do it," Heuer says.
At 76 years old, Heuer has made 139 homes. And it's all out of pocket, because after a life chasing the dollar, Heuer finds his wealth lies in giving these creations away.
He says he never tires of it, and it's what he lives for.
"Every day. I dream about it at night," Heuer says.