By Christine Swiderski
West Branch- Bob and Thema Schroder have been married for 70 years. He attributes the longevity of his marriage to saying yes, agreeing with Thelma.
He said: “If I can make her happy I will be happy,” Bob said.
To get away from the stress of working Bob and Thelma would go up to Mio snowmobiling with friends. After buying a 3 acre property in Mio, they built a 14×20 cabin. They would come up every year to snowmobile and hunt.
Bob Said: “I did not care if I got a deer. It was nice to come up take a nap and relax.”
Bob Worked as quality control at GM hydromantic in Willow Run he retired in 1980. Once he retired they decided to build a house in Mio. Thelma’s mother lived in West Branch, they made countless trips into West Branch weekly for Doctors appointments helping Thelma’s mother. The decision was made to find a place in town. West Branch offered everything within a three minute drive.
Bob said: “I believe West Branch is the nicest town in the North. I love the people here. It has been easy to make friends.”
He started doing ceramics and slowly started carving wood in 1996 at the young age of 72. Bob and Thelma bowled with a group of friends. He liked to carve little fun carvings while bowling. A girl saw what he was doing and suggested he take up carving. Once introduced to Lark Nelson, he took on the craft. He learned the art of carving from Lark Nelson of St. Helen a master carver. Lark taught Bob how to use only chisel’s, no sandpaper or power tools. His first piece was a canoe with a fishing net which took best of show. It takes him months to finish a project. He said many who start to carve want instant gratification, but it actually takes months to finish a project.
Bob and Thelma moved to West Branch in 2005. He has made something for each of his grandchildren and great grandchildren, 33 in all.
In 2016 Frankenmuth’s Woodcarvers Guild show, Bob Won a gold medal for best of show for King Arthur’s Castle, Camelot including the Excalibur sword and a dragon. He has won top honors the last three years.
He does his own drawings to make them fit what he wants to do. Bob uses his smartphone to search for an image of what he wants to carve. Patterns can be used, making measurements to bring the piece to life. Photos are one dimensional, making something three dimensional requires measurements. He believes anyone can learn to carve especially if they can think in three dimensions.
His current project is another castle. Using Basswood there will be a road leading up and around the castle with a mountain in the background. A dragon will be seen leaning over a stone fence. Each piece will be done separately till they are ready to be brought together to tell the story.
Bob’s close friend Bob Snyder said “We get our inspiration from Bob. His work pushes us to try harder, striving for perfection.”
Bob said: “Yes you can teach someone to carve who has no artistic talent. While I was taking classes learning how to carve, Bob Snyder walked in looked at what we were doing and said he could not do it. Bob is now teaching others to carve.”
Bob Snyder said “Bob is my mentor, there are 8 guys in our club, each guy has taken best of show in their category, from novice to advanced. Our quality is because of Bob. His talent and the pursuit of perfection make us all better at what we do.”
There is a good natured competition within this group. They look to Bob for inspiration and encouragement. They never argue about carving only cars and politics.
Bob Schroder is a member of the Saint Helen Carvers club which meets every Monday at Bob Snyder’s home in St. Helen. If you are interested in learning to carve you can contact
Bob Snyder at 989-632-2061. You do not need tools to start they have some that can be used.
On Wednesday from 9am till 12:00 Bob and his fellow carvers set up at Ogemaw Commission on aging West Branch Senior Center 1528 M-33 989-345-3010.
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