The 2018 Featured Carver is William “Bill” Veasey, Newark, Delaware, and the featured bird is a Belted Kingfisher.
Although Bill Veasey is easily recognized as a renowned carver and carving educator, it’s not quite the career he planned on. As a young man Bill served in the U.S. Air Force, and attended Lebanon Valley College as an aspiring music teacher. However, an opportunity to try his talent at auctioneering arose, and he was hooked, thriving in the auction business until 1970. Around that time Bill began hunting with his brother-in-law, Bob Biddle, who carved waterfowl and encouraged Bill to give it a try. Little did he know the impact that simple suggestion would have on his career plans and his life.
From humble beginnings, such as displaying his decoys in local Howard Johnson restaurants, Bill has spent the last 50 years perfecting his craft, teaching others, and, well, winning awards. Bill’s dedication to wildfowl art and conservation has earned him nearly 100 competition ribbons, as well as accolades such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Canvasback Award, the New Castle, Delaware Ducks Unlimited’s Carver of the Year award (2008), and Ducks Unlimited’s prestigious Golden Teal Award. He was inducted into the Easton Waterfowl Festival’s Hall of Fame in 1994, and Ducks Unlimited presented a pair of Bill Veasey green-winged teal to former president George H. W. Bush. It should come as no surprise, then, that Bill has also been honored as the 2014 Ward Foundation’s Living Legend Award. Just recently he was selected to paint the poster for the 2018 Clayton (NY) Decoy Show in addition to serving as the Featured Carver for the 31st Annual Core Sound Decoy Festival (Harkers Island, NC).
Bill has also published 14 books on wildfowl carving- one of which was so popular it sold out in 90 days! All of his books can be found in the Special Collections Department at the University of Delaware’s library, which is the second largest library in the east with approximately 2.5 million books. Bill’s talent cannot be denied – in 1984, he was commissioned by the Cecil County, Maryland, Commissioner to carve a gift for the China Central Chinese Orchestra of Being, China, on their visit to the United States. A pair of his life-sized pintails in flight sold at the Ducks Unlimited National Convention in 1989 for $10,000. His carvings reside in all 50 states and in 13 different countries around the world
He has held many leadership positions with decoy and carving organizations. Bill served as the Maryland State Chairman, Regional Vice president, and on the National Membership Committee with Ducks Unlimited, in addition to making 4,000 decoys for DU fundraisers with his son, Michael. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Easton Waterfowl Festival and the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum and as president of the Cecil County Arts Council. Bill was named the Honorary Chairman for the Have de Grace Decoy & Wildlife Arts Festival in 2009, and in 2014 he was the Honorary Chairman of the Upper Shore Decoy Show presented by the Upper Bay Museum.
“Carving has enriched my life to no end,” Bill says. The people he’s met and the friends he’s made over the years have just made the journey that much more enjoyable. And, it’s a family affair…his wife, Dotty, whom he married in 1953, carved for many years. Bill’s children and his son-in-law are all involved in the decoy world, from carving to exhibiting.
There’s no doubt that Bill’s a wildly talented and successful carver, but perhaps is he best known as a dedicated teacher of wildfowl art, a role that has brought him the most joy and fulfillment. In addition to his books, Bill teaches through workshops and classes at festivals and events throughout the year. For years he has led carvers of all ages through events like the Ward Museum’s Carving Out Future Decoy makers program. For Bill, it’s all about giving back, and he is happy to share his knowledge, experience, and talent with the next generation of carvers.
Photo of Belted Kingfisher by Judy Gallagher [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.