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The Lybbert Brothers

If you’re around eighty years old, and you’ve spent your life learning a variety of trades — and developing an all-around handyness — you might want to sit back and share your wisdom with your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Or, if you’re Enoch and Dennis Lybbert, you might start building homes from the ground up, doing all the labor yourselves.

On a recent morning, we sat down with these industrious brothers at Enoch’s house in Cheney. He turned 82 in February, and Dennis is a spry 78. Right next door stands their pride and joy: a brand-new duplex that offers three bedrooms and three bathrooms on each side. All bedrooms are bathroom suites, appealing to a new generation of EWU students who are willing to have housemates and share a kitchen, but are finished with the dorm-drama that comes with sharing bathrooms.

The brothers make it clear that doing all the labor on this building was an incredible challenge, not because they don’t understand residential construction, but because the codes are always changing, and meeting the needs of Labor & Industries presented some real difficulties. The loan process, by comparison, was far less of a burden, even with limited resources.

“I’m a school bus driver for the Cheney district, so I can’t afford a lot,” says Enoch. “But we really worked the numbers with our lender, Cory at INB, and we were just able to squeak in there for our loan.”

He laughs, and then adds the kicker. “We saved a lot of money doing the labor ourselves, and now it appraises at about twice what our loan amount was.” And the monthly cash flow on the property means this is Enoch’s final school year driving a bus.

Both having lived interesting, varied lives as “jacks of all trades,” they began getting serious about building in their seventies. They conducted a few major remodels for others, and then took on something huge: building a new house in Chattaroy, where Dennis now lives. This gave them the confidence to then take on the Cheney project.

When asked how they learned each component of house-building, it’s clear they have had years of experience maintaining their own homes, helping family members with projects, and moonlighting in various trades. Their younger brother Clifford, now deceased, worked for his father-in-law, an electrician, and the two older brothers were often along for the ride. Piecing together knowledge over a lifetime is something of an advantage, but they also embrace technology.

“We certainly owe a lot to YouTube,” says Dennis with a laugh. “It’s an incredible tool, to be able to quickly see how something is done.”  

During our talk, a couple of times they catch themselves saying “next time” about how they would change their building techniques. They quickly remind one another that they are content taking it easy from now on, serving in their church and enjoying the relationships they treasure most.

“We’re still young in our hearts; but our bodies, well – they don’t like to work as much as they used to,” says Dennis, prompting a laugh from Enoch.

They take turns listing off their considerable numbers of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and it’s clear: as proud as they are of the houses, their families are what they’ve taken the most pride in building.

“They are our greatest joy,” says Enoch. “That’s our life: the love we experience with them.”