Joseph Schultz sticks with a project. It may take a while. Maybe a couple of decades, but the results are great.
Joseph began working on a model of the USS Constitution when he was 15, and he worked on it for several years. He completed it when he was 79. The ship model is currently on display at the River Park Branch Library on Mishawaka Avenue. He turned 80 earlier this year.
Lots happened in between. And Joseph has a story about each part of the journey. Lots of good stories.
His name may be familiar. Joseph is a well-known professional artist in the community. After 35 years in commercial work, he retired in 2005 to paint for the love of it and is recognized for his landscapes.
First a little history: The Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides, is a three-masted wooden-hulled heavy frigate. It is the world’s oldest ship of any type still afloat. It was launched in 1797 and was in the War of 1812. Today it is in Boston Harbor and is a museum.
Back to Joe.
He grew up in South Bend, near downtown. He said his love of ships and model building all went back to the Boy Scouts.
“We met in a log cabin near St. Hedwig’s. There was a dusty old model of the Santa Maria on the shelf. I would stare at it.”
That was the spark.
“My friend Ted Flis was a carver, and we shared an interest in art. He said he started on a hull. He wasn’t going to finish so I could have it.”
Note: Joseph said the cabin by St. Hedwig’s was later demolished.
Joseph completed a few models before he found a book at the city library titled “Ship Model Making” by E. Armitage McCann, published in 1927. The book came with detailed plans of the Constitution.
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Note: The library at the time was known as “The Castle” because of its Victorian features. It was on Main and Wayne. It was closed in 1958 and later demolished.
He worked on the model until he was 18 and joined the Navy. It was boxed up for years as Joseph moved around for some jobs, moved back to South Bend, got married and started a family. He worked for a time on assembly lines and in sales.
The art bug continued to pull him in different directions. He eventually took classes, later taught graphic design at Ivy Tech, and worked in advertising, corporate and freelance. Joseph continues to paint.
Note: Ivy Tech at the time was on Sample Street and was the former Washington High School. It was later demolished.
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Life goes on, and Joseph and his wife, Faith, purchased an old farmhouse south of the city. Later, they constructed an addition. With the new space, he acquired a craft room and space to work on the Constitution. Out comes the model.
Note: Their house has not been demolished.
A new room and more time. But first he wanted to see a copy of that library book “Ship Model Making.” The book was located in storage, but it didn’t have the printed plans any longer. Thanks to the internet, Joseph found a copy for sale at Better World Books.
He drove out the next day to buy the book. “God meant for me to finish this work,” he said. Book, plans, space and time.
That was about five years ago.
With the internet and the “Ship Model Making” in hand, he spent hours on the details of the ship from the cannons to the rigging. He found a way to make the American flag of the era out of tissue paper.
“The scale is one-tenth of an inch to a foot,” he said. The model is 3 feet long and the masts are 24 inches tall. To finish off the project, he built a glass case to cover it and keep it secure.
“It is a relief to get it done. That’s a good way to put it. I’m proud. It was a challenge. I think my model building days are over.” Then, he added, a toy model would still be possible.
You can reach Kathy at [email protected].