“It’s quite a therapy.” Korean War Veteran battling Parkinson’s finds comfort in crafting


ROBINSON, Ill. (WTHI) – Fred Bertram’s been battling Parkinson’s disease for more than 20 years now. It’s hard for him to get around these days.

But it’s when this soft-spoken Korean War Veteran sits down to work is when the symptoms of the disease seem to melt away. Fred used to be a woodworker and cabinet maker before Parkinson’s took that away from him.

About a year and a half ago, Fred started making things out cardboard because he said he needed something to do.

“We heard he was making cardboard things at the nursing home, but we had no idea of the scope of it,” said Jerry Decker, VFW 4549 Commander.

So when the VFW agreed to put some of his creations on display, they couldn’t believe what he brought in to them.

“Man, when he brought them in, he blew us away.”

Fred’s made trains, trucks, oil rigs, and churches with pews on the inside. Fred says his favorite things to make are sailboats. Big sailboats.

“I don’t know why,” Fred said. “I just have memory of them.”

You heard correctly, Fred crafts his creations from memory, because he’s never set foot before on a sailboat. Fred says he can craft a sailboat in a week to 10 days.

When Fred’s in his element, you don’t see signs of the Parkinson’s disease trying to take over his body. Fred says his new-found hobby helps him in his battle.

“It’s quite a therapy.”

When asked what his favorite part about creating from cardboard, he simply said “finishing.”

“Who would have even imagined…” Jerry said. “It’s remarkable what all he can make.”

The Robinson VFW Post is hosting a 30 day silent auction of Fred’s work.

It’s open to the public. Simply stop by the VFW at 712 E Main Street to place a bid on any of the items they have on display.