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Cornelius man celebrates 90th birthday, artwork

About 70 years ago, Adam Bachmann was training his hands to man the wheel of a 523-foot vessel, haul nautical rope and measure latitude and longitude for the U.S. Navy amid the destruction and chaos of World War II.

These days, his hands do more delicate work. Bachmann's hobby is creating stained glass artwork, and his hands are still steady enough to cut glass freehand, grind off the rough edges, solder delicate lines and apply thin layers of paint.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Adam Bachmann -- his friends call him Andy -- creates stained glass windows, lamp shades and other decor in his Cornelius workshop.

Bachmann has always had an eye for how things fit together, whether he’s connecting pieces of stained glass or sharing the highlights of his life.

For his craft, Bachmann starts out with a paper pattern — from a magazine or one of his son-in-law Bruce Horne’s drawings — to cut colored glass he special orders from Pennsylvania. He then puts the puzzle together, grinding down edges to fit and soldering metal stripping that holds the glass together. It's fragile work that requires a firm hand.

Bachmann sells his pieces at farmers' markets in Forest Grove and Beaverton as well as at the Midnite Oils booth operated by his daughter, Dorie Horne. His pieces also adorn churches in the metropolitan area, including St. Anthony Catholic Church in Forest Grove.

While Bachmann views his craft as a puzzle he puts together, it's clear he sees his life as a sequence of events that fall into place as they were meant to.Bachmanns work ranges from small ornaments to larger, more intricate pieces such as this stag.

His rousing wartime stories highlight the contrasting, understated peace of his workshop, where he spends about six hours each day making stained glass artwork wall hangings, windows, lamps and décor.

Bachmann will turn 90 this Saturday, Oct. 25.

He’s celebrating a life that started with an urban Kansas boyhood that abruptly transitioned into adulthood when he signed up for the U.S. Marines.

“I knew I would have to go anyway and I wanted to get in there and help fight the war,” Bachmann said, so he volunteered. The Marine branch was full, however, so Bachmann found himself in the Navy, serving as a quartermaster.

In the Cornelius cul-de-sac where Bachmann now lives, it’s nearly silent inside his workshop as he recalls his journey to a U.S. Navy boot camp in Idaho when he was 18, traveling in a dusty, rickety railcar in 1942.

The Navy suited him because he “didn’t want to do all that walking around” like he would have to do if he was a soldier in the U.S. Army. But the coincidence also led him to one of his lifelong passions. During his three years as a quartermaster on the USS Cahaba — an oiler that refueld other ships — the Midwesterner grew to love the sea, ships and navigating.

Fate continued to serve him well.

Bachmann made friends with the ship’s baker, who baked him a cherry pie every time he went on watch. He never got seasick. He explored Hawaii on his off-time when the crew refueled other ships in Pearl Harbor.

The Cahaba was never sunk or bombed, but there were close calls. Once another fuel ship relieved the Cahaba of its duties, and two hours later that ship was torpedoed, Bachmann recalled.

When he returned to the states, Bachmann met Anna Patricia Dilley on a blind date. They didn’t get home until 4:30 in the morning, and Bachmann knew right away they were a good fit. They soon married and had three children: Adam Bachmann, Jr., now living in Illinois, and two daughters, Dorie Horne and Lois Ranstead, both of Cornelius.

After making a career in the garage door industry and moving around the Midwest, Bachmann and his wife moved to Portland in 1970. That’s where he bought his first 16-foot fiberglass boat at his wife’s encouragement. He caught his first salmon off the St. John’s Bridge.

“That hooked me,” he laughed. Bachmann has created several religious stained glass images for churches.

Anna was a fisherman, too, Bachmann said proudly.

For a while, the Bachmanns lived in Twin Rocks and Rockaway Beach, just north of Tillamook. They fished every other day and canned and smoked the salmon they caught. That's where they first tried their hands at stained glass, through a class at Tillamook Community College. Bachmann was just 18 years old when he entered the U.S. Navy to help fight WWII and left his family in Kansas where his father owned a tavern.

Thirty years later, Bachmann is still passionate about stained glass, even after Anna, his partner in craft, died in 2004. A year before, the Bachmanns had moved in with their daughter Dorie and her husband, Bruce.

“You’ve got to keep busy. Keep those arms, fingers and mind busy,” Bachmann said. “It’s beneficial for your health.”

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