Carlos Biellier served the United States in field artillery in both World War II and Korea.
He joined the Merchant Marines when he was still very young, and when he returned to civilian life, he worked, as he put it, “as a manure salesman,” which was downplaying his profession, for 24 years.
Carlos received an award for selling $1 million dollars worth of fertilizer, which showed his business sense and also that if he puts his mind to it, he can accomplish anything he wants.
Having had a busy life in the military, serving in two wars, then a fulfilling successful civilian life as a businessman, as well as a long and happy life with his late wife, Rowena, and enjoying their family of sons Mark and Chris, and daughter Carla.
He now resides at Brookstone Estates in Vandalia, which he refers to as a “country club,” and still keeps busy at things he loves to do, such as gardening, putting puzzles together and taking Brookstone bus trips
Carlos has been gardening for 50 years. Just outside his patio door, Carlos has a garden, where he is growing tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and lettuce, and has a crop of radishes just pushing through the fertile dirt (to which he added about 5 gallons of genuine cow manure).
He proudly pointed out a green tomato on one of the plants, and has already harvested lettuce. He shares his garden produce with others.
Carlos had a very large garden at his home for years, before moving to Brookstone. There, he also had gooseberries and others varieties of berries and fruit trees. Rowena canned, made jellies, jams, cobblers, etc., and they shared the fruits of their harvests with others.
The Puzzle Master
Carlos has filled the puzzle room at Brookstone with beautiful works of art, which he has patiently put together and framed. He put together a large, long horizontal puzzle Busch Stadium, and a unique, round puzzle featuring the Cardinals’ logo, a baseball, a redbird sitting on bat, and the words “St. Louis Cardinals.”
He also has a large, colorful, full-of-action puzzle of native American Indians on horses in a large frame.
He has rural scenes, of barns, an old washing machine and animals, such as a large buck deer among foliage. “My wife and I started doing this six or seven years ago,” Carlos said.
Daughter Carla Knebel added, “When Mom was at St. Luke’s Hospital, very ill, we sat for hours and hours in that waiting room, because there were so many different visiting hours,I went and picked that (Cardinals) puzzle up, because there were so many different families there, and the intent was for us all to work this puzzle down there.
“Then, things got worse and she passed away and we came home, and didn’t get the puzzle put together,” Carla said. “We came home and he put together and, with it being round, we thought it was so neat.
“Then, we started ordering puzzles for him and this is how he got started, doing ones like this,” she said, indicating the deer puzzle. “He did pheasants, deer, etc.
“He gave my brothers one of those, and he made one for all the grandkids, great- grandkids – everyone has a puzzle from him,” she said.
His generosity extends to his fellow residents and the Brookstone staff, and several puzzles hang in the resident’s rooms.
“When I moved in here, to spend my time, I started working on these puzzles,” Carlos shared. “There are two ladies who help me. Doris Dudley is one, and her sons come in to visit her and they will work until midnight on some of the puzzles we have.
“Lois Jackson also helps me. She is in charge of the puzzle room and she keeps me extra puzzles and she keeps the room cleaned out”, he said. “We have put together about 50 puzzles since I’ve been here and all the residents, most of them have one in their room. Doris and Lois help me. Doris is real good at puzzles.”
They initially glued the puzzles on poster board and now are using plywood. Carla said that her niece, Kathy, brought him a puzzle board to put them together on.
“The board has shallow drawers in which to sort the pieces by color. He can keep the pieces organized and just pull them out by color,” Carla said. “There is a lot to it and he has mastered it.”
“He will say, ‘I’m going to slack off, my eyes are hurting,’ then he is right back down here (in the puzzle room),” Carla said.
“I work a couple or three hours in the morning,” Carlos said, “Then, Doris comes in the afternoon and works about an hour or two.”
Carlos gives the framed puzzles to employees, and he also made one for an employee has a new baby. “The picture looks like her baby,” he said.
“We trade puzzles with the other veteran units, like the VFW. They aren’t put together; they have to put them together,” he said
Carlos is also a skillful quilter and Carla said she is thinking about bringing him some quilt blocks when winter comes and he can’t work in his garden.
Concerned About the Future of theVandalia American Legion
Carlos does have a concern.
“In the evenings, I sometimes go to the American Legion and visit with my friends,” Carlos said. “The American Legion is really struggling with financial problems. We have 95 years in with the Legion, and it does so much for the community, the boys, the Cub Scouts, the baseball teams, the veterans’ burials. We have only 24 WW II Veterans still in this American Legion Post.
The move to Brookstone was good. “I came here in January o2014 and time has passed so fast with the garden I have and the puzzles,” he said.
“And my guardian angel (Carla) comes to visit me every day.”
Carlos said that he and Rowena had visited the assisted living facility two years before she died, and had, in fact, already decided to move there. “We talked about it and would have moved in then, if she hadn’t passed away,” he shared.
Carlos is very content at Brookstone. “I have my garden here,” he said, “and Merle Adermann (on staff at Brookstone) is a great guy – if I need something and mention it, in two minutes, he will have it here.”.
“We also have bus trips,” he said. He mentioned going to Grafton – “The road is beautiful” – and to Farina and Effingham.
“This is a nice place and you are among friends,” he said. Carla added she can come and eat with him, “and the meals are really good,” she said.
And soon, they will be eating fresh tomatoes from Carlo’s garden. It can’t get much better than that.
Carla, with assistance from Mark Miller, has made a video of her dad’s life, which covers his military life; he and Rowena’s young married days; and their children as they grew.