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DeRosier's life has been with cars

Doug DeRosier alongside his 1936 Chrysler C7 Airstream Rumble Seat Convertible. The Chrysler is one of DeRosier's favorite projects.1 / 3
A wall inside DeRosier's car garage. The walls feature various signs, posters, and trophies. The over 2,000 sq. foot Garage, which he has had for over 20 years, is split into three different sections.2 / 3
The interior of DeRoiser's Model A.3 / 3

"You need to find your niche in life, It doesn't matter what it is and it doesn't matter how much money you make," said St. Joseph resident Doug DeRosier.

DeRosier has definitely found his niche. He has worked on body work and paint jobs for automobiles for over 42 years. Though he has been doing it since junior high, he is not sure how he decided it was for him.

"I've thought about that, but I just like it," he said, "It's just something I really enjoy and have passion about."

Growing up he worked at Pudge's, the family restaurant owned by his father Harold. He worked on old trucks with friends in his spare time.

"They were pretty awful," he said, "but I got the hang of it."

DeRosier could think of 50 or 60 old cars that he has restored. However, one stands as a clear favorite, his 1936 Chrysler C7 Airstream Rumble Seat Convertible.

"That's the queen of the fleet. You can look and look for years and never see one," he said, "I go to a lot of car shows and people ask what kind it is, because they've never seen one."

DeRosier estimated he puts around 300-400 hours of restoration into each car. While painting is his favorite part of the project, he says it is a small portion of the work.

"This involves welding, bodywork and prep. The best paint job, if you don't prep it right, isn't worth anything."

That statement shines through in his sanding. While most find it to be the most tedious job, DeRosier says he will sand something six or seven times before he paints it.

"I've wore out so many sanders," he said, "I don't mind it because I know what it involves. It's quiet and peaceful and you can see the result when you're done."

"I enjoy it and it doesn't seem like work," he said.

That's probably because DeRosier has a full time job teaching auto body at St. Paul College, his alma mater. He never thought he would get into teaching, but found a liking for it when he substituted a few times for someone he knew.

"I ended up liking it. When he retired I applied for the job and got it."

He enjoys working with the students.

"I like all of it, new faces and new ideas, and hopefully we can find them jobs."

As the market keeps improving, DeRosier said he can place jobs most all of the committed students that work hard every day.

He preaches the mantra of finding something you enjoy to all of his pupils.

"That's the best thing I can tell kids, pick out something you like."

DeRosier returned to school in the early 2000's, where he received his teaching degree from UW-Stout. He talked about his philosophy when working with students that are new to auto body.

"When teaching students, you have to back up the bus and start at zero," he said, "you have to teach to the lowest level and build them up."

DeRosier went back to work on Monday for the new school year, something he was excited for.

"I'm looking forward to going back," he said last week, "It's been a very interesting career choice."

He is very grateful to have his health. DeRosier has faced multiple bouts with cancer. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1978 and just recently had two major procedures to fend off another round.

"I had chemo and all that and survived it," he said, "33 years later, I get cancer again, but they fixed it."

"I feel great, it's amazing," he said.

While DeRosier knows he could make a business out of his hobby, he prefers to simply sell off most of his projects to finance new ones. He calls it a "labor of love."

"It's been very rewarding. It's nice when you get done with something and you can say, 'I did that.'"

He also doesn't mind taking his cars out for others to see. He said he often gets asked about the car's model and year.

"I like talking to people about them. It's something to break the ice."

DeRosier, a member of the Minnesota Street Rod Association, takes his vehicles to various car shows. Though he has won numerous trophies and even had his cars featured in magazines, he is not consumed with the awards.

"I don't get super excited about winning one. If somebody's never won one, I would rather see them win it," he said.

However, when asked about his Chrysler's performances at the shows, DeRosier admitted, "That's easy to win with. It's so unique."

He prefers to limt the number of projects he works on at one time. DeRosier said he only plans out future projects by one or two cars at a time.

"You can't work on these at the same time because pretty soon it's out of control," he said.

His next endeavor is a 1938 Ford Truck.

DeRosier has enjoyed family support through everything from his wife Laurie, son Paul, daughter Gwen, and even his dog Misty. Paul enjoys working on paint jobs as well.

DeRosier doesn't see himself hanging up his "heavy-duty hobby" anytime soon.

"Not now that I feel good," he said, "You need to have something to do. You can't just watch TV all the time."