DECATUR -- Handy with his hands, Dr. Paul DeBruine crafted furniture to fill his home until his wife, Ruth, put up the stop sign: "No more room."
Then the Decatur anesthesiologist turned to carving duck decoys, with Smitty Roper, a friend, as a mentor. "I did this for maybe 20 years," he remembers. "I didn't sell them, I gave some to friends."
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A World War II history fan, DeBruine eventually became fascinated with U.S., German and Japanese fighter aircraft.
Putting his woodworking skill to the challenge, he began crafting airplane models. From scratch. Never a kit. So the models are a unique accomplishment, minutely detailed on a 1/72 scale.
Consulting "The Complete Book of World War II Combat Aircraft," a comprehensive compilation by three Italian authors, he starts with a block of wood. Studying photos of the aircraft, he draws plans on the wood, uses a band saw and puts on the finishing touches with a utility knife.
Each plane has a propeller fashioned by DeBruine and is realistically painted. "The only thing purchased is the decals," he said.
Among others, there are a P-38 Lightning, Navy F6F Hellcat, German Messerschmitt ME109 and a Japanese Zero.
At a recent Retired Old Men Eating Out, or ROMEO, breakfast, DeBruine exhibited about a dozen models. "I have three or four more I made earlier; they're primitive," DeBruine said. "My late son, Jeff, kept telling me, `You're getting better.' "
"I haven't made a British plane," he said. "It's on my schedule. The British had a couple of good ones, the Hurricane and the Spitfire. I'm also working on a couple of other American planes."
DeBruine, from Elmhurst, and his partner, Dr. Ron McGregor, from Kentucky, started medical school together at Washington University in St. Louis, did residency together at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and were partners for 34 years at Decatur Memorial Hospital. DeBruine was president of the Associated Anesthesiologists of Decatur Ltd., and McGregor was director of education. They retired together in 1997.
"Mac and I shared a desk for a number of years," DeBruine said. "We were the Odd Couple. I was a neatnik. Mac was disorganized. I had the left side of the desk, Mac had the right side."
DeBruine, 79, and Ruth spend the winter in Saddlebrook, Ariz., near Tucson. They joined a hiking club and are now hiking guides in the mountains around Tucson.