By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After 31 years of sharing stories with us, our Bill Hudson is retiring. There have been so many beautifully written and photographed pieces, it’s hard to choose just one.

But before he leaves us Friday, we thought it wise to bring back a few of what Bill says are his best.

“In my decades of TV storytelling, one thing comes to mind: it’s the treasure of a good character. Ely’s Joe Seliga was my favorite,” Bill shares.

Bill interviewed Joe Seliga of Ely back in 2002:

For as long as man’s traversed this border wilderness, there’s been heard the gentle swish of wood on water.

“This is where I spend most of my time!” Joe Seliga said.

At 91, Ely native Joe Seliga is still turning wood and canvas into his handcrafted beauties. Canoes with the perfect blend of both function and form.

The profile and design were done to please one man — and that’s Seliga.

But what he perfected was a canoe both pleasing to a paddler’s eyes and arms. Sixty-four years after making his first canoe, Seliga is still at it!

For years Joe’s only partner in his shop was his wife Nora. Together, they’d turn out a dozen canoes a year. When Nora died two years ago, Joe was devastated. But later decided, she’d want him to carry on.

“I said I don’t have to do it alone. Nobody’s gonna take her place, so when I can’t do it, that’s the end of it” Seliga said.

Seliga canoes aren’t found in any store. He doesn’t advertise them. In fact, Joe says of the 657 canoes he’s built over the years he really hasn’t sold a one! That’s because the beauty and the craftsmanship does that for itself.

Some owners are known to keep his canoes in their living rooms, like pieces of furniture.

“I always say, use but don’t abuse, that’s my motto, and you’ll get a helluva lot of enjoyment using it and not hanging it up” Seliga said.

Bill says Joe Salega passed away in 2005 – just a few years after this story aired. He died at 94 — building cedar strip canoes right up to the end.

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