Retired engineer finds pleasure in creative process
The painting and woodworking bug first bit Ron Hollrah when he was a high school student. And the same creativity critter has a stronger hold on him than ever in the decade since his retirement from a 33-year career with Black & Veatch.
Hollrah, BS CIE ’64, MS ’66, PhD ’71, has thrown himself into a variety of painting and woodworking projects since retiring in 2004, including a painting of Mizzou’s iconic columns he gave to College of Engineering Dean James Thompson.
Why the columns? Well, the structural engineer in Hollrah has an affinity for the long-standing landmark.
“I am usually drawn to paint subject matter that has character. The MU columns were one such image. Perhaps it was the concrete. My doctorate research involved concrete. Whatever it was, I liked the image,” he said.
While all of Hollrah’s future engineering classmates were taking algebra, science, physics and chemistry, he opted for two years of woodworking and two years of fine arts.
“During my sophomore year in high school,” Hollrah said, “a couple of my math teachers commented that I had a natural talent for math. That encouraged me to cram my last two years of high school with math classes that would give me a degree of preparedness for the engineering curriculum.”
Since retirement, Hollrah has had plenty of time to pursue his other talents, but rather than supplementing his income through the sale of his creations, Hollrah prefers to donate his works. He has shared about 25 pieces of handcrafted furniture with Christ Lutheran Church in Overland Park, Kan., and a dozen more reside in Christ Lutheran Church in Breckenridge, Colo. He and his wife, Jeanette, BS NUR ’65, live in nearby Keystone, Colo.
Hollrah’s knowledge of what makes structures sturdy ensures his creations are built to last — bookcases, decks or the two-story playhouse he built for his grandchildren.
Hollrah also has found a comfort level working with watercolor and acrylics. And the scenery in Colorado has given him plenty of inspiration.
“My wife, who is a skilled quilter, and I discovered a valuable lesson about a year ago. We pursue our crafts for the pleasure of the process,” Hollrah said. “When we are gone, we hope some of our quilts, paintings and furniture will become heirlooms of future generations, but for now, we are satisfied to simply enjoy working at our crafts.”