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Originator of Blackduck Wood Carvers Festival dies at 89

Jim Schram Sr. of Blackduck, who helped form the Blackduck Wood Carving Festival, a popular community event in northern Minnesota, died Monday at the Good Samaritan Society in Blackduck. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

His hands have helped teach hundreds of carvers young and old.

Jim Schram Sr. of rural Blackduck died Monday at 89. Even at that age, he carved more this year than any other year.

Schram, through the encouragement of friends, started the Blackduck Wood Carvers Festival, which just celebrated its 27th year at the Wayside Park. He began carving after quitting smoking in 1969, a way to keep his hands busy. Upon retiring, he and his wife, Evelyn, moved to Blackduck in 1978.

His woodcarving shop and home were a welcome place for all those who visited. The Schrams conducted many carving classes through Community Education in Blackduck and Bemidji and held a special class on Wednesdays. His classes were so popular there were never openings - those who attended had first dibs signing up for next class before it even opened.

"The Schrams were just good people," said Robin Stomberg, current committee member of the festival.

Evelyn died in 2004.

Stomberg learned from Schram. "Once I started, he encouraged me to keep going with it. He had that something special. People gravitate to him."

Gayle Rousch of Squaw Lake, a 15-year wood carving veteran, did not learn from Schram, but they had many one-on-one carving sessions learning from each other.

"He told me keep practicing or you'll be like everybody else," Rousch said. "His encouragement kept me carving. I would have lost my mind in the long winters if it were not for carving."

"He was the most sharing, caring person I've ever met, a very patient teacher," said Joan Allen of Laporte.

Allen said she took many classes from Schram but especially enjoyed the Wednesday classes.

"When I needed help, he always knew exactly what needed to be done," she said. "And he had everything on hand. You needed a knife or blank, he had it, and if he didn't, he would have it for you by next class."

For the 25th year of the festival, a special book, "Carving a Niche in Northern Minnesota," was written by Mary Jo Parker Jepson. It chronicled the history of the festival - a tribute to the man who brought carving to Blackduck.

A phrase that Schram used regularly was "All you need is a knife."

A memorial service for Schram will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, at Zion Lutheran Church in Blackduck under the direction of Cease Family Funeral Home of Blackduck. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service Thursday at the church. Military honors will be by the American Legion.