That’s him, laughing at his birthday party a couple of years ago. And it’s how I remember Bill Kerr – a fellow hobbyist, Maine two-foot enthusiast and talented scenery modeller who passed away Sunday after a long battle with cancer.
Bill lived in Calgary and I’m in Toronto, so there were a couple thousand miles of Canada between us. But we exchanged thousands of emails over the past decade, and did have the opportunity to meet each other a few times when business or family brought him east. Bill and I – along with Terry Smith, another modeller of Maine two-footers in On2 – co-moderated the MaineOn2 Yahoo Group for a number of years, and ran a separate group called Two Foot Projects (no longer active) to lead online classes in building freight cars, water cranes, and other Maine two-foot essentials.
Bill was also the driving force behind the Maine Two-Foot FAQ – a tremendous resource for those trying to model these unique narrow gauge lines. This was originally hosted on his own web site but in recent months Terry, Matt Mathews and I had been working with Bill to transfer his data to a blog format.
Visits from Bill were always a treat because he had a wonderful talent for scenery, and my layouts – On2 and now S – always benefitted from his discerning eye and constructive suggestions. It was from Bill that I learned the lesson that convincing scenery needs space to breathe. For example, if you’re planting a field, make it a big one. And embrace negative space between vignettes.
I put Bill in league with UK modeller Gordon Gravett for building scenery that makes you say “WOW!” and, like Gordon, he was always generous with sharing his techniques. I’ll miss that – a lot.
Mostly, though, I’ll miss his positive attitude. Few hobbyists in the Maine two-foot community knew that he was fighting cancer. That’s because he preferred to focus on enjoying the time he had on this earth. Many people dealing with a life-threatening disease – or even a relatively minor setback – take every opportunity to moan about their condition. Not Bill. The last time I spoke with him he was still determined to beat the Big C. I will seriously miss his willingness to live – and will try to live my life that way in his honour.
I’ve included a few photos of Bill’s O scale, two-foot gauge Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes layout below. The scenery is, well, inspiring. At least, I think so. Enjoy.
I’ll miss you Bill – but I’m very glad I knew you.
UPDATE: July 19, 2013 – Here’s a link to Bill’s obituary at the Calgary Herald.
In recent years, Bill was also proprietor of Selkirk Scenery, which offered some of the best leaf material I’ve ever encountered. I understand from conversations with Bill before he died that arrangements were made to transfer the business (including tools and inventory) to another modeller. When I know more, I will share via this blog.
UPDATE (August 20, 2013):
Nigel Knight has taken over Bill’s scenery business. It’s now called Selkirk Leaf Company, and you can read more about it here.