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Dumbauld takes his opportunities in stride

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 8:02 p.m. CST
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(Heidi Litchfield – hlitchfield@shawmedia.com)
Bob Dumbauld turned his garage into a workroom, so he can continue to tinker with everything mechanical during his retirement.
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(Photo submitted)
Bob Dumbauld grew up in Seneca where he spent 10 years finishing grade school.

MORRIS – Bob Dumbauld of Morris was born in Missouri and grew up in Seneca where he went to school.

“I hated school with a passion,” Dumbauld said. “Nothing interested me, and I wasn’t good at arithmetic.”

It took him 10 years to graduate from grade school, but he got it done, and never looked back – or forward – to high school.

Dumbauld didn’t receive a high school diploma but received a lifetime education when he was drafted in 1946 to the U.S. Army.

“I got my training in the service. I went to mechanic school and stayed in 13 months before getting out and going to diesel school in St. Louis,” Dumbauld said.

He was a jack of all trades, working as a Merchant Marine on the Illinois River, as a service manager at a car dealership, and finally owning his own business.

He bought and built kit cars using a Volkswagen chassis; he built the rest of the car from the ground up.

He took an old Volkswagen Beetle, cut it apart, and created a custom truck.

In 1957, he started building kit planes. He had a local pilot test fly this first ultralight airplane because he didn’t know how to fly – yet.

“I taught myself to fly with the ultralight, and I took lessons in a Cessna,” he said.

Ron Terry of Seneca said Dumbauld is one of the most interesting people he’s met, and he often works with him on projects. The two had a mutual love of Ultralight planes and could be found together at Terry’s home in Seneca with one of the small aircraft.

“When I flew the ultralights, it was a feeling I can’t describe,” Dumbauld said. “That’s really something, when you get off the ground and look down at the countryside.”

But owning an ultralight caused another issue — how would he transport it? He built a 20-foot trailer to haul the aircraft from one location to the next.

Once he found he could build a trailer he decided to build his own teardrop travel trailer and he started welding the axles together. He built the trailers from scratch and used different plans to create the perfect recreational vehicle.

After a few trailers were built, he moved on to watercraft. The first boat he built was from a Sears & Roebuck kit.

In 1999, he rebuilt a hovercraft, and later, he customized other boats to hold his fishing poles.

For 10 years he had a cabin in Northern Wisconsin where he did a lot of fishing, so he had to have the proper fishing boat.

After attacking and conquering every plane, boat, and automobile, Dumbauld decided it was time to jump on the next bandwagon – computers.

After he retired from his automotive shop Dumbauld taught himself how to work on computers and he bought, rebuilt and debugged desktop computers in the workshop in his garage.

“I started buying, selling and repairing computers before iPad came out, I’m not an electronic-type person, but I could replace a hard drive and put in Windows,” he said. “I sold a lot of them.”

With more people switching to laptops and iPads, Dumbauld has moved on to the next phase of his industrious life.

Three years ago he started fixing riding lawn mowers, and he’s even sold a few.

“I love mechanics, I love repairing things,” he said. “I do the repair work that others shake their head at. I just love doing something people appreciate.”

Most days he can be found sitting his his garage turned workroom among lockers filled with drills, and containers full of nuts and bolts, just where he wants to be.

“I’ve traveled in a motor home, went fishing in Wisconsin, I haven’t completely ignored my wife Bev,” he said. “But now I’m just comfortable here, the way it is now.”

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