Aho, George – Rapid City, Northern Michigan

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A Story from Ross Blair
Ross Blair of Traverse City, Michigan submitted this fine story about his relationship with George Aho. “I knew George Aho in the 80’s and 90’s prior to his death. He lived in Rapid City, Michigan until he became ill and he died in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at a veterans home. He had been carving fish and duck decoys since the late 30’s. For the last 20 twenty years of his life he carved mostly fish decoys. He lived alone with his bull dog Brenda.

He was a kind man and had his workshop in the back of his house. The shop was connected to the house and there he did his initial carving. He had a wood lathe for his initial shaping and for larger fish. He had a chainsaw with which he cut open old batteries for the lead weight. Batteries were all over the place. All this inside the shop, mind you.
Around the workshop lathe the sawdust was ankle deep. I once told him he had better clean it up or he’s have a fire. He just laughed at me.
George did his finish work and painting in the front room of the house just inside the from door. It was sort of a closed-in porch. In the winter, he’s keep a space heater in the front room for warmth. Brenda was always with him.

George became sought after in the mid 80’s and he always had a back-log of orders. His order book was an old steno-pad. He’d show me his orders and he always had request for thirty or more.
George carved many decoys for me. He made me a five foot pike, several four footers all the way down to 5 inch suckers.

George told me he had make only one other five footer and one six footer. Near the end of his life he was asked by some of his customers if he’d leave out the lead weight so they could get the decoys faster. He and I suspected they just wanted to resale decoys and not spear. The decoys he carved for me were always ‘working decoys’ as we called them. Properly weighted and ready to use.
George Aho was a true folk-artist and craftsman.”
Ross Blair
Traverse City, Mi

A Story from Make DaPike
I actually watched George draw a picture of Jesus smiling once at my buddies motorcycle garage. He was there to make a piece of metall-work for a harley and they got talking about how you never see a picture of Jesus smiling. So he drew one with us all standing there.

11″ Glass Eyed 1990
Photos provide by
Breg Van Hees of Grand Haven MI

George Aho of Rapid City, Mich (1911-1994)
Also reported to be from Elk Lake, MI.
(Northwest Lower Peninsula)

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