Bill Mattison: More gifted than others

Published on September 21st, 2020

Since the National Sailing Hall of Fame began inducting new members in 2011, the honorees tend to attract attention from their local media, but 2020 inductee Bill Mattison might be setting some kind of record with the adoration he has received. Here’s an example from the WiscNews:

Idle is a rarely used gear for Bill Mattison.

The proof can be seen in the intricacies of miniature circus wagons that line the living-room shelves of his Madison (WI) home.

The wooden wagons, modeled after those at Circus World Museum in Baraboo, sport working brakes, tiny hinges and detailed paint jobs. One has a working steam calliope and another a series of thimble-sized cast iron bells tuned to specific pitches.

His neatly organized basement workshop is filled with small grinders, a micro-sander, lathes and tiny clamps. This is also where his home-built circus train is displayed near plywood tables that hold three circus tents in miniature, all of which earned him a spot in 2015 in the Circus Model Builders Association’s Hall of Fame.

And then there are the two model ships. They’re located on on the second floor, built from kits ordered from Italy and based on designs from 1670 and 1765, respectively. Each took Mattison 10 years to build.

“Bill’s always busy,” said Mauretta Mattison, his wife of 63 years, for whom he built a grandfather clock that sits at the base of the stairs just off the kitchen. “He never was able to sit still.”

So when we arrived to talk about Bill Mattison’s latest accomplishment, a spot in the National Sailing Hall of Fame, he was set up in his four-season sunroom that offers up sweeping views of Lake Mendota. Mattison, who turned 92 last month, was busy with a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle. As he worked, we talked about sailing, a hobby since he was a pre-teen growing up on Orton Court near Lake Monona. Full report.

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