Keeping busy called key to happy retirement

Marv Vassberg of Bawlf, Alta., stands in his shed with some of the dozens of tractors, cars and trucks he has rebuilt.  |  Mary MacArthur photo

Retirement didn’t mean idleness for Marv Vassberg, who has rebuilt dozens of old vehicles since he stopped farming

BAWLF, Alta. — The key to enjoying retirement is having something to do, said Marv Vassberg.

The retired farmer has spent thousands of hours rebuilding old cars, trucks and tractors, and designing and building blades and scrapers. Years of tinkering and time in the air force, as an electronics technician, gave him the skills to rebuild the vehicles.

“It has to be something you thought of before you retired, then if you retire, you can expand on it and enjoy it for years,” said Vassberg.

“You can’t do nothing when you retire. You have to have a hobby or something.”

Before Helen and Marv retired in 1995, Marv built and resold equipment as a way to acquire the farming equipment he needed.

“When we started farming he used to restore vehicles in exchange for farm machinery. We didn’t have money so this was one way to get equipment,” said Helen.

The yard is filled with cultivators, trailers, barbecues and other equipment Vassberg built from scratch and bits of equipment found in the yard.

With more time for hobbies, Vassberg travelled the Prairies buying old machinery to rebuild. His collection includes more than 20 vintage tractors parked in a row in front of his home. Tucked inside garages are rebuilt cars, trucks and more tractors. Behind the sheds are future projects.

A row of about 20 tractors is lined up in front of the Vassbergs’ house. Marv rebuilt them after he retired. | Mary MacArthur photo

Inside one garage is a combination 1947 army jeep and a 1929 Studebaker with power seats, sunroof and swivel seats.

In another garage is a 1933 Morris 10 car.

“When I got it, it was a mess.”

Using pictures and drawings he made bumpers, a roof and doors.

“It was quite a project.”

A 1944 Morris 10 is one of the dozens of cars Vassberg has rebuilt. | Mary MacArthur photo

In another garage is a 1917 Model T quarter-ton truck he bought in pieces.

Vassberg was able to buy many parts for the Model T, except for the wooden spokes, which he built on his lathe.

Vassberg can recite statistics on each vehicle, unique features, including where he found the vehicles and how he brought them back to the farm and the price he paid for each vehicle.

The couple didn’t just rebuild equipment when they retired. With a new motorhome, they spent weeks travelling Canada and North America.

They managed to accidentally drive their motorhome into downtown Manhattan, they drove north to Alaska, spent time fishing, took cruises through the Panama Canal and organized family reunions.

Having good retirement projects has kept the couple healthy, he said.

Helen and Marv Vassberg have enjoyed their retirement. In the winter, when it is too cold to rebuild equipment outside, Marv has taught himself to paint and do other art work. Helen said since retiring her garden seems to have grown bigger. | Mary MacArthur photo

“A lot of people who retire and have nothing to do don’t last very long,” said Marv, 84.

“We’re lucky to have our health. We’ve done a lot of travelling,” said Helen, who spends hours in the garden growing vegetables, only to give most of them away. In winter, she crochets, and cross stitches. Two years ago she created a family history book.

“It’s fun to do new stuff. I can’t sit and do nothing,” she said.

A few years ago, Marv taught himself to paint and now spends hours in the basement painting on petrified rocks, clocks or anything he can find for a surface.

“You just get an idea and try it. Each time you do it, it gets a little better.”

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