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Final frame: Fulton artwork framer does last benefit work

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
April 26, 2012
— Art framer Roger Millar seemed to always know how to make the green and gold in a Bart Starr print jump right out of the frame.

With a steady hand and a keen eye born from years of industrial woodworking, Millar once could cut matting so crisp you'd think it was the sky bordering a canvas depicting a pair of bluebirds.


Now, at 86, the canvases and prints are starting to fade for Millar.


With his eyesight failing and his age is catching up, he can no longer make out the color of Mickey Mantle's eyes in a vintage print.


He needs his wife, Charmaine, to double-check his for work nicks in the matting or specks of dust between the print and the glass—the little things that can mar a frame job.


"It's always the small things like that that are the hardest to hide," Millar said while sitting at the kitchen table in his Fulton Township home, where he's framed thousands of paintings, photos and prints in his 30 years as a framer.


Millar was gazing at a paneled wall full of photographs of his grandchildren, pictures he hand framed. He was pointing out which of his grandsons had played college baseball, and talking about his last major work order, a benefit auction for Edgerton's Tider Baseball Booster Club set for Saturday at Anchor Inn in Newville.


It's far from the first time Millar's donated his time, effort and talents framing art.


He's framed work for hundreds of benefit events over the years—some for churches, hospitals, families who've suffered untimely deaths and youth sports teams flung as far as Racine and Platteville.


Millar once worked up a batch of framed prints for a state sheep association event.


"In the past, it was always anybody who wanted me, I'd do the work," Millar said.


Yet, Saturday will be his last hurrah as an art framer. Part of it is his eyesight; the other part is age catching up. He is slowly losing the precision that framing requires.


"It's just getting too hard," Millar said. "If somebody wants me to do a couple of pieces, one or two, maybe, but this will be the last big one."


When Millar agreed to work up some framed, autographed sports memorabilia and selections of wildlife paintings for the Edgerton boosters, he knew it would be work.


But this time was different. It took him six weeks toiling in his basement framing studio—far longer than any other benefit he'd done.


"What used to take me hours now takes me all day. And I can only work a few hours at a time," Millar said.


In his living room on Wednesday, about 100 artworks, all framed for the show, were organized in rows. They were done expertly, and to the layperson, flawlessly.


Greg Reierson, who is president of the booster club, said his group is honored that Millar chose them to be his last benefit project.


He said practically anyone in the area who's held a benefit in the last 30 years knows about Millar's work and his generosity.


"I really wish the whole world knew the amount of work Roger's done for other people," Reierson said.


Millar still attends high school baseball games. He said he can see the ball all right as long as it doesn't leave the infield. Some of his favorite benefit projects have been to help out youth sports.


"I guess I just want to support anything that makes things better for the kids and keeps them out of trouble," Millar said.


When asked how he'll feel Saturday when the benefit auction rolls and people start battling to win the work he framed up, Millar just smiled.


A twinkle brightened his pale, clouded eyes.


"It doesn't have anything to do with me," Millar said. "If people care about the cause, they'd come anyway, whether I was there or not."


If you go


What: Benefit auction for Edgerton's Tiders Baseball Booster Club. Fulton Township art framer Roger Millar says it will be the last time he features his work for auction. Proceeds benefit the booster club and the Edgerton summer baseball program for high school juniors and seniors.
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Anchor Inn, 709 E. Highway 59, Newville.
Details: Doors open at 4 p.m. The event kicks off with raffles, cash giveaways and a silent auction. A live auction starts at 6 p.m. Auction items include about 100 artwork and sports prints framed by Millar, along with autographed sports memorabilia, a Trek bicycle and a handmade quilt.

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