From pitch forks to table forks: “It’s all history,” says the former dairy farmer whose retirement hobbies let him dabble as a collector, historian and artist.
A Historian’s Collectibles
“An antique collection is like a poor man’s museum,” LeRoy said with a smile.
His museum of sorts consumes three rooms in his basement. Walking down the steps takes you back in time when butter churns, cream cans and milk bottles were not just novelties.
One room is dedicated to farm antiques like hay knives, animal clippers, bull-leads and an assortment of pitch forks. Each item has its own place on shelves or on the wall. Most still function as if they were still in their prime.
Among his favorites is a tobacco cutter that was used in his own grandfather’s store.
“I always was the one to have to know the how and why,” LeRoy said while showing a relic washing machine, electric fireplace, and his assortment of coffee makers and toasters.
Another room resembles a full-functioning kitchen from the 1930s, complete with black and white tiles, and a pastel green wall trim that was common for that period. A white metal table stands in the middle of the room with authentic white with black-rimmed dishes displayed on the counters. A bread box, countless utensils, an electric stove and a working refrigerator also accompany the room, many with the original parts and contents.
“Oh, the grandkids just love to play restaurant in here,” LeRoy said. “They love to take my order.”
Aside from the impressive collection, what LeRoy seems to take the most pride in is showing others how the antiques work and sharing the stories behind their uses.
“I buy most of these things at antique shops,” LeRoy said, “and the others have been given to me.”
A Little-Bit-of-Everything Artist
His creative side is on full display in his yard, where he has created creatures from bowling balls and drinking cups, flowers are made from plates and forks, vases and plates construct garden towers, and there is a one-of-a-kind mug garden.
His handiwork has also resulted in more common lawn fare like a windmill, double-swing gazebo and a watermill. Never forgetting the grandkids, he made special spots in the yard tailored to them. The sand adventure area is complete with a toy barn, and the small boat locking system would make any non-grandchild jealous.
As a director on the Outagamie County Farm Bureau’s board of directors, he said there is value in being a Farm Bureau member.
“I have not missed many (WFBF) Annual Meetings,” he said. “Even when I was still dairy farming I went.”
The collector has apparently passed on his love of farming. Three of his five children are farmers. LeRoy and Mary also have 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Story by Amy Manske. Original version appeared in the December/January 2012-13 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.