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Craftsmen recognized for trade skills
Featherbone Communiversity, Brenaus Masters Series honors 10 men for helping 'build America
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Wiley

Roy Johnson
Trade: Sitework
Years in trade: 35
The best part of his job: “I like to beautify stuff and treat people right. I always think positive and work with positive people.”

Phillip Gillespie
Trade: Concrete
Years in trade: 7
The best part of his job: “The self-satisfaction. You have to have a vision ... that’s where the self-satisfaction comes in — seeing that final product from where it started.”

Jason Brosche
Trade: Mason/Stone/Tile
Years in trade: 16
The best part of his job: “Solving erosion control problems, working with people and designing and creating.”

Eric Manning
Trade: Plumber
Years in trade: 5
The best part of his job: “I like the freedom of not being cooped up all day inside a cubicle. And people are always happy to see a plumber.”

William “Bucky” Walters
Trade: Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
Years in trade: 42
The best part of his job: “The designing part — custom tailoring. When it all works out, you’re either hero or zero.”

Daniel Caldwell
Trade: Electrician
Years in trade: 12
The best part of his job: “It’s always a challenge; it’s an ever-changing field. Through that, you get to see a lot of different building practices and manufacturing practices.”

Tracy Tesmer
Trade: Residential Builder
Years in trade: 36
The best part of his job: “We have to stand there and say ‘Wow!’ or I didn’t do my job,” Tesmer said, of seeing his client’s first reaction.

James ‘Milton’ Chumbler
Trade: Machinist/Toolmaker
Years in trade: 44
The best part of his job: “Solving problems. When people want a machine to do something, I build special machinery to do a certain job somebody wants ... whatever it takes.”

Harold D. Skelton
Trade: Finish/Specialty Construction
Years in trade: 40
The best part of his job: “I like meeting and satisfying the needs of customers. If it makes them feel good, you feel good.”

Tim Wiley
Trade: Welder/Fabricator
Years in trade: 23
The best part of his job: “The best part is teaching all the new guys that come in. I’ve taught for I imagine the last 15 years.”

Ten men who help “build America” were honored Thursday at the second Master Craftsmen Awards.

“It’ll be so important for our community to have an appreciation for the people who built America,” said Tim McDonald, vice president of economic development at Lanier Technical College and chairman of the Master Craftsmen Committee.

The men were honored at the Lanier Technical College Rotunda at Featherbone Communiversity for their “skills and talents, and for having the passion to develop those talents over many years and become experts in their own fields,” said Lanier Tech President Ray Perren.

Gus Whalen, founder of Featherbone Communiversity, which joins with Brenau University to sponsor the awards, also welcomed students, family and friends to the event with words of admiration.

“These are probably 10 of the most humble people I’ve had the opportunity to meet,” he said. “These are problem solvers. Every day they get up and they solve problems — problems they may not have even known exist. And the typical answer for these gentlemen is, ‘Not a problem. We can take care of that.’”

The men represented fields that build and power a modern society, from the jobs that lay the concrete foundation for a new building to the ones that beautify its lawn outside.

“All of the folks up here today are representing skilled trades without which we wouldn’t be here,” said Tim Evans, with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “It’s truly an honor to be with the people who build the foundation — literally — upon which we stand.”

Featherbone and Brenau host four annual Masters Series programs each year, including Masters in Teaching, Masters in the Art of Nursing, Masters of Innovation and Master Craftsmen.

All of the honorees had a chance to talk about their love for their work and why the next generation should consider such a career.

Most of the tradesmen had decades of experience in their craft, so at 26, plumber and former Marine Eric Manning stood out as the youngest honoree.

“Loving what you do, it gives you the incentive to strive harder and perform better,” he said.

Panelists nodded their heads in agreement as Manning said he appreciated a job free from the confines of a cubicle.

In closing remarks, McDonald said it was an honor to be in the presence of more than 300 years of craftsman experience.

“I don’t know another event where we have the opportunity to have 10 master craftsmen get together and share their expertise,” McDonald said.

Addressing the topic of educating future generations, Whalen bemoaned that “somewhere along the way” society began to devalue apprenticeships.

“I believe it’s time we take another look at apprenticeships,” he said. “Often the best form of education isn’t reading about something in a book, or even doing something in a lab environment, but actually getting out in the field and working side by side with experts.”

Lanier Tech is starting an apprenticeship in air conditioning to honor that hands-on philosophy, Whalen said.

He complimented the craftsmen for doing their part as teachers.

“All 10 of these masters have mentored others,” he said. “There’s no book that offers the expertise a mentor does.”

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