The Perkins gas engine pictured above took Urnikis a total of two years to put together.
433 East Girard Road Coldwater, Michigan 49036-9642
When Adam 'Leo' Urnikis of Girard was a young boy he was fascinated by the way the area farmers had to use steam and gas engines to pump water, run generators for electricity, and use these fascinating engines at the saw mills to cut wood for the families' heat.
That was over 50 years ago and Adam's interest and love for the old fashioned ways of life have brought him to a hobby that brings hours of enjoyment for both him and his wife.
After serving his country in World War II, he returned to Girard and married his wife Alma and the couple have lived at their present home for forty nine years. Urnikis was a tool and die maker at Quality Springs for thirty years and the knowledge and dedication to his work brought him to his present hobby.
In 1984, while looking through a gas engine magazine, he immediately decided he wanted to order a casting kit which would enable him to make his dream come true. The kit for the single cylinder water cooled steam and gas engines consist only of two wheels and a water hopper. It is all rough casting when it arrives. The work then begins when Urnikis sits down and begins to completely machine down the parts to the engine. He makes all the spark plugs, carburetor, exhaust system, crank shaft, valves, flyball governors, pistons, and other needed items in his complete workshop.
Adam has constructed four different engines and hopes to be able to assemble more. Three of the gas engines took one year to make, however one took two years to complete. The four engines are York, Perkins, Allman and Economy. The smaller kits cost approximately a hundred dollars and the larger models begin at two hundred and fifty dollars and higher.
What is a hobby without having a special place to work, and Adam has just that. His complete machine shop is equipped with tool and die equipment he has purchased over the years, in a warm heated building he works in during the winter months.
Adam and Alma have enjoyed displaying their gas and steam engines in Litchfield, Kalamazoo, LaGrange, Indiana, as well as at the Blair Farm east of Homer.
Adam was especially proud to have been asked by his Army buddies to bring one of his engines to the World War II army reunion held in Kansas.
Although he keeps very busy, he stops everything to help area children collect leaves for school projects from his many fruit trees and proudly shows off his huge tomato plants and beautiful garden which he raises from seeds he plants in his homemade greenhouse.
With a lot of talent and knowledge, Urnikis has made his retirement years a time of keeping himself busy and happy. Known by many of his friends as Leo, he is indeed a special person who has touched many lives with his friendship, love and a constant big smile.
The above article is reprinted with permission of The Daily Reporter, Coldwater, Michigan, July 22, 1997 edition. All rights reserved.