Tell It Like It Was - Farewell Vic Kuchem and Paul Bauermeister
Adapted from the original email story sent by Paul Ovaitt on September 26, 2022
Farewell to Vic Kuchem and Paul Bauermeister Gentle readers, I know that most of you are aware that Vic Kuchem passed away August 25, 2022. https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/emissourian/name/victor-kuchem-obituary?id=36367730 I’m sure there has been no shortage of fond recollections floating around Augusta since then but allow me to add a few more.
I first met Vic on a job site in the late 1990s. I was rehabbing the stone house at Montelle Winery. Basically, the owner, Tony Kooyumjian, was acting as the general contractor, but he gave me great latitude in problem solving, carpentry details, salvaging and matching (of the walnut, cherry and Missouri cedar trim), and in all finishing. Tony hired the HVAC guys, the plumber, and everybody’s favorite electrician at the time, Vic Kuchem. Along with my construction duties I had to co-ordinate with the sub-contractors, show up every day to aid them, accept deliveries, communicate with Tony, and at the end of the day…clean up the site. And it puts a grin on my face to recall how cleaning up the site ties in with my friendship with Vic. Vic had retired from his work as a commercial electrician in 1992. And like all electricians who work on large projects, he was accustomed to leaving a trail of litter…plastic wrappers, cardboard boxes, old wires removed from walls, newly snipped wires, and even the debris from his lunch. It’s understandable. He wasn’t hired for his cleaning skills, and besides, one of the laborers is paid to sweep up that sandwich wrapper, right? But on this job, there was only one cleanup dude, and he was also the gofer, and the lead carpenter…moi. I never complained to Vic; hell, I was happy just to have his company. I mean the guy was entertaining. He was funny, full of local history, and anxious to share his construction knowledge. He was lithe and limber as a 20yo in a 70yo body, and all around, pleasant. But after a day or two, he observed that I was the only laborer, and I was cleaning up after him in the late afternoon. He became apologetic, and soon started mending his ways. In truth, his newfound neatness wasn’t necessary for any future friendship. I had already taken a shine to this energetic jolt of electricity, but I respected him even more after he endeavored to lighten my duties. For many years we crossed paths on job sites, and eventually he was advising me on my own home projects involving electricity. He was generous with his time and his knowledge. Vic Kuchem was the first TILIW interviewee to sit for a live, public interview in Augusta. The event was held at the Augusta Visitors Center on July 30, 2019.
Among other things, he discussed his career at 28:07 to 30:25 on the video, and again at 45:39 to 51:46. Vic, your light still shines here in Augusta. Gentle readers, the next man I wish to talk about, Paul Bauermeister, may not be as well known in Augusta, but he certainly had a large presence for me. Paul, who died September 11, 2022, lived with his wife, Jeannette, for several years in Augusta in the house that is currently owned by Paul and Melissa Hughes. On the property was a vineyard, now known as Honey Bee Vineyard. https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/stltoday/name/paul-bauermeister-obituary?id=36539213
Paul and Jeannette, both Lutheran ministers, had 3 children, one of whom is well known around Augusta, Michael Bauermeister. Michael is an artist with wood. He creates vessels, sculptures, and wall art that rivals any painting in texture, color, mood, and beauty. His shop/studio is called Nona Woodworks, and it was once the Nona MO general store. He stores lumber in the next-door MKT railroad station. http://michaelbauermeister.com/Michael_Bauermeister/Michael_Bauermeister_Home.html Michael is also a musician, a singer, and a songwriter. He is married to Gloria Attoun, an artist in her own right, but she too plays many instruments, sings, and writes songs. Many of you will remember them from the bands, Augusta Bottoms Consort, the Texas Giants, their own duo, and solo acts.
But allow me to circle back to Paul Bauermeister and his home on the bluff just east of Augusta. Besides being a minister with a Ph.D., he was handy with tools, and he often hired me to help him with his ambitious construction projects. One of the most satisfying ventures was when Paul and I built the front, stone wall of the wine cellar at what is now called Honey Bee Vineyard. Whatever wall there once was, had long since crumbled, so we started fresh. We poured a foundation, cut and laid stone, and constructed a stout wooden door of Missouri red cedar. Working with Paul was always great fun; I almost felt guilty for getting paid. For example, have a look at this photo of Paul and Paul observing Happy Hour. Like these two men, be of good cheer and always stay curious. Paul