BY LINDSAY MCCOY

Times Bulletin News Writer

lmccoy@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - Bill Greene may be most known in the Van Wert community for his work for the Van Wert Fire Department, but after retiring in February 2009, Greene picked up a new hobby to help occupy his time.

Greene began to run three days a week as a medic for Brickner Ambulance Co., leaving himself four days a week to pursue this new venture, making custom fishing poles. Greene created his own company, Stoney Ridge Custom Rods. Greene considers himself primarily a bass fisherman but lately has been expanding his catch to include fish of the edible type.

Greene travels all over to pursue his catch including Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Canada. He also frequents Lake Erie for small-mouth bass, walleye, and perch. Greene previously fished in a lot of bass tournaments but now only fishes for fun for almost anything that swims. His favorite meal is fresh walleye from Canada.

Greene is now able to extend his love for fishing with his custom made poles. His ultimate goal is to fill his boat with only his own rods. Currently only half the rods Greene uses are of his own making. His more specialized rods are his custom builds.

"I always wanted to try my hand at rod wrapping custom rods," said Greene. My very first two I made I am still using as my primary rods for fishing. I really enjoyed the first ones I did, and now I am hooked. It is kind of a catch-22 in that it keeps my mind active in the designing of the rods such as thread patterns, colors, etc. I'm using my hands, and that is a good thing. The catch is that while I love using my hands they aren't as nimble as they used to be, so sometimes I struggle with the initial layout of the thread patterns but I am learning different ways to overcome this."

Greene's process of creating these rods is nothing short of a piece of artwork. He must first order in the graphite blanks, cork or foam for the handles, the reel seats, the guides, the thread, epoxies to attach the handles and reel seats and hold the threads down and lock them in. Once the rod has been assembled to his liking, Greene personalizes the rod to the customer's request with black, white, gold, or silver pens. Greene has even created college-theme rods with collegiate colored threads and rod. He has also began making NFL rods and, as an Indiana Hoosiers fan, is creating a few for himself. A few of his creations include Buckeye, Michigan, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steeler rods, but he has the ability to create a rod for any of the collegiate schools and all NFL teams including decals.

"It is interesting to watch the rods come together as I work through the process of building and finishing the rods," remarked Greene. "Basically all I do now is special order, but hope to start making some that may be placed in tackle shops."

Greene also uses his new skill to do all the rod repairs for a fairly large tackle store in northern Indiana. He even has a method to repair rods that have been broken in half and, in effect, to make it stronger at the break than it would be in its normal state. In the summer, this tackle store supports a big part of his business and collecting customers. On average, Greene creates about four poles a month with a large amount of repair work during the summer months.

Also to go along with his fishing hobby, Greene also does fish taxidermy but limits himself to only doing reproductions.

Greene remains busy in his retirement through his fishing hobbies combined with his part-time job for Brickner and his obligations at home. "A person needs to want to help people to remain in this field for as long as I have," noted Greene. "I have been a paramedic for 27-plus years. I also help a couple of county fire departments with fire inspections as they need my assistance, a job I performed for 17 years at Van Wert Fire Department."

While Greene has spent a large majority of his life in Van Wert, he is originally from Indiana and graduated from Tipton High School. Greene continued his education for a year at Indiana University in Bloomington, two years at Ft. Wayne Bible College, and a year at Lima Tech for his medical schooling. He also completed a large number of continuing education hours that were required for Fire and EMS.

Greene is now a Van Wert County resident where he lives with his wife of 32 years, Ann. Their son, Chip, and three grandsons live in Virginia. Greene's step-daughter, Chris, and two grandsons and granddaughter now live in Columbus. The Greene's also have one great-grandchild, and the family continues to expand as another great-grandchild is now on the way. There is no doubt that Greene will remain busy in his retirement years between the love for his family, helping others, and fishing.