“Never mind how much you can do, but rather how well you can do it. Quality comes with application and perseverance, and your speed will increase with repetition,” said the late Bill Schuler.
In March 2018, the fencing world lost a legend. Albert Wilhelm Schuler, or Bill as he was known, was a multiple-time World Champion in fencing, and corner post of the New Zealand fencing community. He had five children and a large family.
Bill was born to Swiss parents in 1933 in Putaruru. The youngest of six boys, Bill experienced a strict upbringing and a rural childhood typical of the era. He was introduced to fencing at a young age, clearing land on his father’s farms with his older brothers, without the help of mechanised tools.
At 21 and newly-married, he ventured out on his own as a fencing contractor and learning carpentry skills with a builder.
As a married man with five children, Bill became used to long days of hard work, with early starts and early to bed – a habit he continued into his retirement.
Bill started competitive fencing at Fieldays in 1970, winning his first Golden Pliers in 1971, and another four singles wins after that. He won the Silver Spades doubles five times, working with his brother, Wally.
After retiring from fencing, Bill judged at Fieldays for a further five years.
The Schuler family still has strong ties with Switzerland, and Bill travelled there 13 times and it is home to some of his grandchildren. Although he was a Kiwi through and through, his upbringing had led to an appreciation and allegiance to his parents’ home country.
During his busy and full life, in between fencing and farming, Bill spent time in a teaching role, made instructional videos for NZ Wire, and wrote a book titled ‘Fencing the Proven Way’.
His early carpentry skills were put to good use creating one-off pieces of furniture for others, usually for farmers with a windblown tree from their farm.
In retirement ill kept active by splitting firewood, and enjoyed spending time with his large family, and a handful of treasured friends. He still attended Fieldays to enjoy the camaraderie of the fencing world.
There is no doubt that the name Bill Schuler will be remembered for many years to come, not only for his legendary fencing competition wins, but his reputation for quality, innovation and workmanship.