Posted 7/07/15 (Tue)
By John D. Taylor
Bill Holleran, 88, of Crosby, calls himself the “world’s champion sawdust maker,” but people in the Crosby area recognize Holleran as being one heck of a neat birdhouse-maker.
Holleran; his son, Mark; Tanna, Mark’s blue heeler dog; and next-door neighbor Bonnie Sortland stood Thursday reflecting on the many examples of Holleran’s work, displayed outside his home of the past three years, near the Divide County courthouse.
Bill’s life began in 1927, in Youngstown, Ohio, where he went to school, met (and later married) his high school sweetheart, joined the Merchant Marines and then served in the Army.
When he got out of the service in 1947, the GI Bill educated him, got him into the floor covering business, his life’s work.
“I spent all my life in carpet,” Holleran notes. “It was hard work, but I never missed a day.”
Meanwhile, Holleran and his wife in 1947 set about raising a family, which included three sons and a daughter.
“Mark was the youngest… and the orneriest,” Holleran notes, smiling back at his son, all the while telling how, in 1959, when the family moved to Phoenix, Ariz., year-old Mark somehow escaped his playpen and crawled to visit the neighbors, despite the June sun scorching the patio the infant walked across to reach the neighbors.
The family spent some time in Colorado Springs, Colo. and Holleran worked for Sears in the furnishing department in Anaheim, Cal. Then the family explored the west coast up into Alaska and out to Hawaii, but they eventually came back to Phoenix because, as Holleran says, “We got tired of traveling.”
When his wife passed away in 2012 – they’d enjoyed a 65-year marriage – Holleran was all alone in Phoenix.
So his children suggested that he come to live with Mark in Crosby. Then he had a stroke, which left him not able to do a lot physically.
Still, he liked to build things and with some scrap lumber, began building birdhouses.
“This is a hobby for me,’ Holleran said. “I use scrap lumber and if I make a mistake, it doesn’t matter. It’s for fun, and I’m the world’s champion sawdust maker!”
“Birdhouse Bill,” said Sortland.
When people suggested he try selling some of his birdhouses, he found his first buyer in Brittany Sparks, owner of Crosby’s Stems & Salvage.
Since then, a number of people have bought his birdhouses.
“This is more of a hobby,” Holleran said, “I don’t want a new business. I just like to get dirty with sawdust. It’s for fun.”
Between frequent jokes and laughter that morning, Mark loaded a large trailer with his and his father’s belongings -- preparation for a move to Polson, Mont., where Mark will reconnect with his own children after spending the last three-and-a-half years in Crosby.
Bill may be on the move again, but thanks to the birdhouses he leaves behind, many of his feathered friends will be more comfortable sticking around.