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Handyman brings tradition to the job

Staff writer

Memories of Steve Unruh’s grandfather, O.K. Unruh, were on Steve Unruh’s mind when he talked about becoming a handyman in Marion.

He remembered how his grandfather aspired to own a saw repair shop. O.K. Unruh studied the repair equipment and eventually built all the machinery for his shop from scratch.

“I have an innate grasp of how one process can be used to benefit another, but he was a craftsman,” Steve Unruh said. “I’m more of a pragmatist. If I do it like this, it will look all right and it will work.”

Lessons from his grandfather also stuck in Steve Unruh’s mind. O.K. told Steve that it was important to be a vital part of the community but he also preached being versed in many trades.

“Learn how to do it all,” O.K said to his grandson.

After serving with the Navy during the Vietnam era, Unruh worked different jobs. He worked heavy construction, he was a mechanic, he was a heating and air conditioning repairperson, and he worked in apartment repair.

He would often work two jobs at a time and said that he has over 30 years of experience in apartment and heating and air-conditioning repair.

Unruh also has a long history of bad luck.

When he first started working in construction, he was buried in 3 feet of dirt and run over by a bulldozer.

When he was working as a mechanic, another employee knocked over a 28-foot stack of tires onto Unruh.

Unruh then did a second stint in heavy construction. He had 17 feet of ditch collapse on his leg.

As a result of those accidents, Unruh has had four back surgeries and is debilitated by conditions that affect both his arms.

Unruh can only work three or four hours at a time. He can no longer climb a ladder and said, at times, he can barely hold a screwdriver. He draws disability pay and chose to retire in Marion.

However, Unruh couldn’t keep his grandfather’s lessons out of his head. He couldn’t sit around and do nothing. He put up a sign that reads “Handyman” with his phone number — (620) 381-3475 — in his front yard in April.

What is a handyman?

“I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none,” Unruh said. “Basically if it can be done inside or outside of the house, I can do it. Any job that I can finish in a day.”

Unruh will do any job that is small, including drywall repair, roofing, plumbing, porch repair, and even small appliance repairs.

“I don’t want to take jobs from established guys around,” Unruh said. “Jobs that are too small for them, I can usually do.”

While Unruh believes if he works, he should be paid, the job is not about money.

“If you have a door hole you need covered up, it will only cost $10,” he said.

If a person needs work done, and can’t pay, Unruh may even do the service for free. He will also do any work for churches for free.

“I’ll try to get it done for them,” Unruh said.

Just don’t try to give Unruh a full-time job. If he could still do it, he would be working in heating and air conditioning. To Unruh, being a handyman is about providing a service for his town.

“Basically, I just want to be a member of the community,” he said.

Last modified Sept. 9, 2010

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