Working in Chicago it took Mike’s dad two hours to get to work. Because of the long drive he was hoping to get out of the city. Mike’s father Gene, and grandfather George Thomas Sharp were born in Auburn, Illinois so the family’s original roots are right here in central Illinois. “Grandpa owned a sawmill and cut a lot of wood for the barns in this area,” Mike said.
That’s how Mike and his dad, mom Marie and sister, Debbie Bailey ended up in the Pawnee area. “I moved here when I was three and went to school in Chatham.”
From the time he was a tyke Mike wanted to be an iron worker. “I took autobody classes thinking that was the way for me,” Mike said.
When he was a kid, his dad kept telling him no every time he asked about becoming an iron worker. Mike said he had pretty much given up getting to join the Union, then when he was 17 his dad asked him if he wanted to be an iron worker. Mike originally said no, because he thought his dad was joking but when he realized his dad was serious, he said yes. “That was the happiest day of our lives.”
Mike joined the Iron Workers Union Local 46 in June of 1986, and he has never looked back.
Sharp’s Welding and Fabrication is mostly a one-man shop. On occasion though, Mike said he has hired help. “But usually, I’m by myself. I’m real picky and I want to be sure when something leaves here there are no problems with it. I’m mobile too so I do a lot of service calls like yesterday I went out to help a guy that is redoing a car frame.”
“I do a lot of work on semi-trailers. I put a lot of rollback trailers in the shop. I built cranes in the back of the shop, and I can have the bed off the truck and flip it over in an hour and put it back together. I do crazy stuff,” he shared.
Having the shop at his home has turned out great. “I like being here. I can be in the shop till seven at night I have a lot more freedom. Guys can drop their semis off, and I can work on them over the weekend, and they don’t lose work time, they can pick them up on Monday.”
Lately during the fall, he added, “Farmers keep me pretty busy.”
Doing what you love has paid off over the years. “It’s not a job. I enjoy what I ‘m doing. I’m lucky and blessed. I get to figure point A to point B.”