Gathering will be held to mark Fred Bear’s birthday
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
From the workshop to the woods, a group will be celebrating everything Fred Bear at a gathering next week.
A Fred Bear Get-Together will be held in Grayling on Monday, March 5, on the birthday of the renowned hunter and archer.
Bear was born in 1902 in a farmhouse near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania during a blizzard.
Bear and Charles Piper founded the Bear Products Company in 1933. The business focused on silk-screened advertising materials, but Bear started making archery equipment in a corner of the building. It soon became a full-time business.
The Bear Archery plant opened in Grayling in 1947. The plant employed hundreds of Crawford County residents. In 1976, the employees produced a record number of bows.
“They made 360,000 Bear Archery bows in that one year,” said John Wejrowski, who moved to Graying after serving with the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War in 1968. “That was just astronomical.”
Wejrowski worked at Bear Archery for six months in the broadhead department, where tips of arrows were assembled. He recalled Bear being out and about in the community, but did he not discuss plant operations at the gatherings.
“Nobody likes shop talk if you are at the coffee clutch,” Wejrowski said.
The Bear Archery plant was moved to Gainesville, Florida in 1978. Bear died in 1988. He was 86.
The get-together will begin at the former site of the Bear Archery Plant, located at 5671 M-72 West.
A 21-whistling arrow salute will be fired to honor Fred Bear. Louis Lucido, a past president for the Michigan Bow Hunters Association, will then play Taps on bagpipes at high noon.
A lunch and meet and greet will be held at Bear’s Den Pizzeria following the ceremony.
Former Bear Archery Plant employees Bob McClain, Gary Worden, Louie Johnson, Walt Isenhauer, and Marie Hatfield will speak at the gathering. Joe Smock, the son of the late Bob Smock, who worked with Bear, will also be a presenter. Pete Kocefas, a Grayling collector of Fred Bear artifacts and memorabilia, will be at the luncheon.
Wejrowski said the goal of the gathering is to rekindle the interest in Fred Bear and keep his spirit going.
“All of this stuff is going lost from our knowledge – shortly – as well as the celebration of Fred Bear,” Wejrowski said.
Wejrowski said they hope to make the get-together an annual event where a celebration, swap meet, and exchange could be held. He noted that thousands of people, who belong in the Traditional Bow Hunters Association, are always seeking information regarding Fred Bear and the equipment produced at his plant.
Wejrowski said he once witnessed a man expressing his adulation toward Fred Bear at the site of the factory.
“He came from Wisconsin and was kissing the ground where Bear Archery used to be,” Wejrowski said. “That’s how fanatic some these guys are. He was in seventh heaven.”
At age 77, Wejrowski still enjoys taking part in hunting for deer with a bow.
“It’s the greatest time to be in the woods – that time in late fall,” he said. “I just like to be in the woods.”
For more information or to RVSP for the gathering, call Wejrowski at (989) 370-7589.