Super Senior: Warren Rinehart

By  | 

VERGENNES, Vt. (WCAX) There's rarely a day when Warren Rinehart doesn't make a journey to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes. His license plate, 'Boneman,' gives a hint of his past. But more on that later.

"The shop is around there," Rinehart said, pointing out a blacksmith shop tucked in the back.

Students from Champlain Valley High School are stopping buy to learn the basics of blacksmithing. Rinehart will be off in a side room doing his own thing. His workshop is a mass of machinery and metal -- 40 years worth.

Rinehart donated money to build the building. Half is his space, the other is for students of the craft. He says when he dies the whole place will be for instruction.

It takes under five minutes to heat the forge to 1200 degrees -- the ideal condition to work with metal.

Rinehart is making a key chain. "I'm going to forge a leaf," he said, preparing to hammer the metal into shape. A small project unlike others.

Rinehart has studied the art of smithing throughout the world. "There is always a new way of doing something," he said.

Why the 'Boneman' license plates? Rinehart was an orthopedic surgeon who came to Vermont with his wife, Vickie, to retire. He thought he'd get the vanity plate, but the Vermont DMV had another idea.

"Vermont has a naughty word book," Rinehart said.

He appealed to a judge and won.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Good thing you're not a proctologist.
Warren: Exactly.

Unlike his license plate, retirement for the Kansas native was short lived. The good doctor went to work at Fletcher Allen in Burlington for another decade. Now 75-years-old, he's fully retired, but sometimes helps out Kris on the teaching side.

Rinehart Demonstrates a piece of blacksmithing equipment and offers tips to the visiting students at the shop. Malleable minds -- Warren doesn't expect them to take up the trade, but to give them a glimpse into a craft that has been around for centuries. "You got to have patience," he laughs.

Striking while it's hot -- perhaps am appropriate metaphor for Rinehart, who's passion is far from cooling down.