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Area craftsmen named masters of their trade
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Gus Whalen, chairman of the Warren Featherbone Foundation, addresses students gathered Thursday for the Master Craftsmen, Builders of America program. - photo by Kristen Oliver

Gregg Lunsford

Business: Lunsford Grading & Hauling

Trade: Sitework and landscape

Years of experience: 28

Business philosophy or advice: “You need to be able to hang your name on something, so work hard at what you do.”

Tim Strickland

Business: Tim Strickland Designs

Trade: Mason and stone work

Years of experience: 20

Business philosophy or advice: “If you care about it, you’ll always have stuff to work on.”

Dwight Merritt

Business: Merritt Service Co.

Trade: Plumbing

Years of experience: 32

Business philosophy or advice: “I always had a gripping vision of having my own business. I could see it.”

Pete Myers

Business: Conditioned Air Systems

Trade: Heating, ventilation and air conditioning

Years of experience: 26 years

Business philosophy or advice: “Give 110 percent and love your job.”

Dennis “Ray” Anderson

Business: Tracy Tesmer Remodeling

Trade: Electrician

Years of experience: 40

Business philosophy or advice: “Young people today start off a little slower than we did when I was a kid. Get it in gear and go, and don’t be afraid to fail.”

Larry Forbes

Business: Sullivan & Forbes Building and Remodeling

Trade: Residential Building

Years of experience: 29

Business philosophy or advice: “Design a project and see it all the way through to the end.”

Hank Sullivan

Business: Sullivan & Forbes Building and Remodeling

Trade: Residential Building

Years of experience: 32

Business philosophy or advice: “Realize integrity has a cost, and attempt to use your integrity all the time ... because in the end, it will pay you back.”

John Wills

Business: Gainesville Flooring

Trade: Finish and tile

Years of experience: 13

Business philosophy or advice: “You have to adapt and be able to come up with ways to make the product look better.”

Michael Dillon

Business: Dillon Forge

Trade: Ornamental iron worker

Years of experience: 20

Business philosophy or advice: “Follow your heart and work hard and you’ll be successful.”

Rex Fuller

Business: Rex Fuller Construction

Trade: Carpentry

Years of experience: 37

Business philosophy or advice: “Do the best that you can and know this isn’t just me, this skill is God-given.”

Wendell Skinner, machinist and toolmaker, was also recognized but was not present for the ceremony Thursday.

Societies are best remembered for what they built, and Thursday some of North Georgia’s top builders were recognized for their work.

Eleven area craftsmen were named “Master Craftsmen, Builders of America” as part of the Featherbone Communiversity Master Series Program in partnership with Lanier Technical College.

“We’re honoring over 300 collective years of experience in craftsmanship,” said Tim McDonald, vice president of economic development for Lanier Technical College. “We’re honoring these gentlemen for the work they’ve done in Northeast Georgia. They are builders, innovators, creators, but I think the best description of them is they are problem solvers.”

Ashley Brown, who gave the keynote address, thanked the craftsmen present Thursday for being an example to students and future craftsmen. Brown is executive director of SkillsUSA Georgia, the career and technical student organization for the state’s secondary schools. “This is what I really think about craftsmen — they really do work magic,” Brown said.

Gus Whalen, chairman of the Warren Featherbone Foundation, also credited the craftsmen for the legacy they leave for the community.

“I think a society is often known by the structures it builds,” Whalen said. “Think about that, going back to the pyramids. We know a lot about the Egyptians, the Greeks and everybody else on the basis of what they built. When you’re no longer here, we’ll look back on what you built and say ‘Wow.’”

Sen. Butch Miller, who moderated a forum with the honorees, asked several of the tradesmen if they had advice for the handful of students present Thursday. Honorees Hank Sullivan, a residential builder, and Rex Fuller, a carpenter, both urged young people to remember values and virtues in their work.

Sullivan advised young people to retain their integrity throughout their careers. He also said they ought to “learn on someone else’s dime,” or to learn from a professional through an internship or apprenticeship.

Craftsman Ray Anderson advised young people to learn from their elders. He said elders “may not be the smartest people on Earth,” but they’ve had years to learn from their mistakes.

He also reminded students not to be afraid of failure, but to view it as a learning opportunity.

Honoree Gregg Lunsford, who does sitework, said everyone should work toward something they can be proud of accomplishing, and Michael Dillon, who does ornamental iron work, advised people to follow their hearts and do what they love.

McDonald said it is important to remember that craftsmen like the 11 recognized Thursday aren’t just good with their hands.

“True craftsmanship starts in the mind and starts in the heart,” McDonald said.