Geneseo man wins bronze in Senior Olympics

Claudia Loucks

If Jerry Volkmar doesn’t answer the knock on his door in one of the apartments at Allure, he most likely can be found in the garage just outside the front door of the complex.

That’s where 90-year-old Volkmar spends time each day engrossed in his hobby of woodworking. His time and talent recently captured a bronze medal for his third place finish in the Woodworking Divison of the QCA Senior Olympics held in Davenport the last week in July.

The piece that won him the honor is a vase, about eight inches tall, designed with a scroll saw which Volkmar explained “has a small blade to use for intricate cutting. I put a vial in the center of the vase so it can hold things like flowers and water won’t touch the wood.”

He said he entered the Senior Olympics competition with the encouragement of Jane Scherer, director of marketing and active living at Allure of Geneseo.

“The item I entered had to be made within the last two or three years,” Volkmar said. “If I could have entered something I had made before moving here (to Allure), it would have been a cross, about 15 inches that shows the birth of Jesus carved in the bottom, the Crucifixion in the center and the Resurrection at the top…That’s my favorite piece.”

The cross also was done using his scroll saw and it now hangs on the wall of his apartment.

Volkmar and his wife moved to Allure of Geneseo nearly three years ago from their home in Plainfield to be closer to their daughter, Pamela Martens of Colona.

He and his wife (Doris) moved to Allure after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Volkmar’s interest in woodcarving began just prior to his retirement from Jewel Food Stores, where he worked for 45 years until retiring 28 years ago.

“We were living in West Chester, a suburb of Chicago, and I wanted something to do in retirement,” he said. “I have been doing the woodworking for about 30 years. It gives me something to do and it is something I enjoy doing.”

The couple lived in West Chester before moving to Plainfield.

The woodworking hobby began in Volkmar’s basement where he said, “I had a room I had built to use as my shop and then when we moved to Plainfield, I joined a woodworking group.”

When the couple moved to Geneseo, Volkmar told his daughter to “get rid of my woodworking tools because I knew I couldn’t do it with the condition of my wife.”

After the couple lived in an apartment at Allure, Mrs. Volkmar was moved into the nursing home facility at Allure, and her husband said she passed one month later.

“When she passed away in 2019, Jane (Scherer) knew that I had done woodworking and she encouraged me to set up a space for my hobby in my garage.”

The garage is quite deep and Volkmar was able to set up two work benches at the front of his garage with tools, and put his table saw on the floor….”There is still room for my car to fit,” he said with a smile. “I am so appreciative to Jane for her encouragement. It gives me something to do and I am out there every day, for a short time in the hot weather in summer and cold weather in winter, but longer periods of time in spring and fall.”

Jerry Volkmar, 90-year-old resident at Allure, recently won a bronze medal in the Woodworking Competition at the QCA Senior Olympics. He is wearing the medal he received and holding his favorite piece, a cross that depicts the Birth of Christ, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Because he is not able to purchase the cedar wood he uses in Geneseo, Volkmar drives to Menards in Moline to buy what he needs.

“I don’t’ sell anything I make,” he said. “I give it to friends.”

He has completed about 25 wishing wells, one of which graces the front porch of the apartment complex at Allure. He also makes outdoor chairs and currently he is in the process of making “Jesus Loves You” signs and said, “My goal is to make one for each of the residents here,” and I was fortunate to receive one of those from Volkmar.