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Passion for woodworking strong at 94

At age 94, Bill Scherer of Hutchinson has 75 years experience doing furniture repair, refinishing, antique restoration and caning. He loves doing woodworking in his insulated garage with his son, Scott.

Scherer started woodworking when he was 15 years old when he lived in Mankato. His dad was going to build a trellis for his wife. While sawing a piece of wood in the basement, he accidentally cut off the ends of his fingers. When he came upstairs, he told Bill that he had to finish the trellis project. Bill completed the trellis and became interested in working with wood.

After high school, he continued his education at Mankato State University in 1940 and majored in industrial arts with a minor in history and social studies.

In 1941 he had an accident while he was toboggan sledding at a hill in Mankato and that caused the government to list him as a 4F and ineligible for the draft during World War II.

With the shortage of teachers, he took a job, with an emergency teaching permit, at the Hutchinson junior-senior high school in 1942, where he taught math, social studies and industrial arts. During the summer months, when he wasn’t teaching, he continued his education and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1944.

Hutchinson was good fortune for Bill. He found a job and also his wife — marrying Elaine Rippe in 1943. They had two children: son, Scott, who lives in Royalton and a daughter, Sandy, who was a teacher at Albert Lea. Sandy passed away from cancer in 1998. Bill lives alone in his Hutchinson home as Elaine passed away in 2013.

He taught in Hutchinson until 1948 and then thought he wanted to try something else. He became a manager of Stearnswood Manufacturing. After three years with Stearnswood he felt he had to get back into teaching because he didn’t enjoy the business side of his job. So in 1951, he was back at Hutchinson High School teaching industrial arts, speech, American history, geography, furniture and cabinet-making, carpentry and architectural drafting.

Then in 1952, the school principal asked him to run the debate team. He is credited with winning eight consecutive Region Three championships from 1960 to 1968.

“I took a lot of harassing from the other coaches because I was a shop teacher,” Scherer said. “After 16 years of debate, I decided that was enough. To maintain peace in the family, that’s when I went full time into woodworking.”

In the late 60s/early 70s, the state of Minnesota started vocational centers.

“I applied at the Milaca, and by golly, they hired me to run one,” Scherer recalled. He stayed there four years and then went to Fairmont for another six years. By 1983 the bottom was starting to fall out of the vocational center movement.

“I could see the end was in sight, so I moved back to Hutchinson in 1983.”

When he was in Milaca, he received the Keyman award by the Milaca Lion’s Club in 1976 and was also president of the Milaca Planning Commission in 1977.

While in Fairmont, he was a member of the local Kiwanis board of directors and was also secretary of the Minnesota Secondary Vocational Administrators Association in 1981.

Scherer was very involved with the Hutchinson community as well. With the Jaycees he was a director, secretary, president of the local chapter as well as serving as the state secretary for the Jaycees. He was the Hutchinson Water Carnival commodore in 1953 and served as the president of the McLeod County Education Association in 1945 and was on the library board for 10 years. He was a member of the Hutchinson Charter Commission in 1950, 1955, and served as its president in 1967. He also received two Keyman awards from the city of Hutchinson in 1958 and 1960. Besides all this, to earn extra money, he worked for KDUZ Radio in Hutchinson, was an announcer for the Harness Racing Association and the McLeod County Fair grandstand events.

Prior to his retirement in 1986, Scherer went to the National Vocational Convention in Houston. Here, he met the book publisher, Prentice-Hall, the largest publisher of school textbooks in the world. The publisher offered him a contract to write a book on woodworking. It took him three years to write the book, draw all the illustrations and learn how to run a camera. By 1985 the book was complete and hit the market. The book titled Designing, Building and Installing Custom Cabinets For The Home was very successful and allowed him to retire from his career in education and return to Hutchinson.

In the late 1980s, Prentice-Hall asked Scherer to update his book. The new book The Step-By-Step Guide to Designing, Building, and Installing Home Custom Cabinets was released in 1990.

In 1992, he released his third book, Building Fine Furniture.

Bill says after he wrote the three books he decided “At this point in my life, I’m strictly engaging in my hobby of restoring furniture and antiques.”

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