PINE RIVER -- When the person you've idolized since you were 12 suddenly dials your phone number and asks for a favor, of course you're not going to turn him down.
That's why Tim Leagjeld of rural Pine River gladly offered his model ship-building services for free to ocean liner expert and author John Maxtone-Graham.
Maxtone-Graham, who lives in New York City, wrote "The Only Way To Cross," a popular book about ocean liners that has been in continuous print since it was first published in 1972. Leagjeld read the book soon after he saw the movie, "The Poseidon Adventure" in 1973 when he was 12.
Both that book and the movie fueled his infatuation with ocean liners that continues today.
"It will be quite a thrill to meet this man. This is such an honor to do it for him. For me, he's sort of my idol. He's a highly respected person." -- Tim Leagjeld Talking about ocean liner expert and author John Maxtone-Graham
Leagjeld freely admits he is obsessed with ocean liners.
"I've gone overboard," said Leagjeld with a laugh.
Just before the movie "Titanic" was released in 1997, Leagjeld finished his 12-foot replica of the Titanic, made mostly of Styrofoam and matte board. He has since built a replica of the Normandie. Both ships are on display in his living room, complementing the oceanic theme of his lake home.
Last summer he decided it was time to write to Maxtone-Graham and thank him for writing the book that greatly influenced his life. He also sent along pictures of his model ships. A few weeks later, he received a nice letter from the author. Then Maxtone-Graham wrote again to tell Leagjeld how he had friends for dinner and they were fascinated by his ships and how he built them.
The eight-foot Queen Mary model ship is nearly finished, except for the detail work, and is now dry docked in Tim Leagjeld's living room.
Maxtone-Graham later called Leagjeld and asked whether he would build three model ships for an upcoming exhibition at the Ocean Liner Museum of New York. The exhibition, "Dazzle and Drab: Ocean Liners at War," will feature exhibits about how ocean liners were recruited for war efforts. Many were turned into troop ships or Red Cross vessels and repainted. The exhibition opens in September.
Leagjeld volunteered to build three ship models for the museum, an eight-foot Queen Mary, a seven-foot Olympic and a five-and-a-half-foot France. He's finished the shells of each ship and now will focus on the detail work. He is hoping to finish within the next few weeks. Then the museum will pay to have the ocean liner replicas shipped to New York.
Leagjeld plans to attend the exhibition opening in September.
"It will be quite a thrill to meet this man," said Leagjeld. "This is such an honor to do it for him. For me, he's sort of my idol. He's a highly respected person."
Tim Leagjeld, rural Pine River, is building three large models of the Queen Mary, France and Olympic ocean liners that will be on display this fall at the Ocean Liner Museum of New York.
Four of Leagjeld's models, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, a fishing trawler and a lighthouse replica, are currently on display at the Smokey Hollow Fish Co. in Pequot Lakes. He also has two divers he created on display at the Minnesota School of Diving in Brainerd.
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