by Mike Nistler
Ed Brophy of St. Joseph picked up his Winchester shotgun this past Sunday and went trapshooting. It was the first time he did so after a stroke in the fall of 2005 almost claimed his life.
Tears come to Brophy’s eyes when he talks about it.
“I broke 88 of 100,” he said. “I wanted to break at least half of them.”
Brophy, who will be inducted into the Minnesota Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame next month, never thought he would ever shoot trap again.
“The stroke took a year and a half out of my life.”
And while he once was a very good shot — he guesses he has taken aim at some 110,000 trap in both league and registered events — it is not because of his shooting Brophy is being inducted into the hall of fame. Rather, it is for his involvement with children. But, more about that later.
Brophy was born and raised in Brainerd. He attended St. Cloud State University, where he met his wife-to-be, Carol. He was hired to teach industrial arts in the newly formed Sartell School District, where he taught from 1970-78 and earned the distinction of designing the Sartell school logo which is still in use today.
Design work has always been a love of Brophy’s, and he was able to combine it with his love for trapshooting.
Having been a leather enthusiast for many years, Brophy saw a way for his talents in leather to be applied in building a product, namely the leather shell bag. During the summers while off from his teaching job, Brophy would grow his business — Shamrock Leathers — by attending various trapshooting events. His reputation as an artisan grew and by 1976, he was making three times his teacher’s salary with Shamrock Leathers. The next year he and Carol both quit their teaching jobs to focus on Shamrock full time.
The late 70s saw a dramatic increase in the price of silver, which was a popular shooting trophy. Brophy, a natural-born salesman, convinced several state trap associations to use his leather products as trophies. As an enticement, he offered the engraving of the state logo, which he developed. Many states signed on and Shamrock Leathers grew steadily.
Today, Shamrock Leather’s clients and individual customers span all 50 states and six countries. Last year, the company surpassed the $10-million mark in gross sales. Brophy, Carol and a son, Bryan, are part of a staff of more than a dozen who are dedicated to the quality and service established more than 40 years ago.
After he left teaching, however, Brophy did not lose sight of the young people.
In 1996, Neil Winston, who had been appointed by the American Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame as its youth director, asked Brophy to help him create guidelines for the young program.
“Ed helped sign youth up, had the major job of figuring out the winners and would haunt the central building to get the score sheets,” Winston said. “He got the trophies to the kids properly, got the pictures taken — all the mechanics of it working were done by Ed. He did that for 15 years, from 1987 to 2002. He made the youth program what it is today.”
Again, tears came to Brophy’s eyes as he talked about working with children.
“Trapshooters are the most friendly, hospitable people in the world. And the young people are our future.”
Brophy mentioned a young man he knew years ago he’d helped in his work with the ATA. That man, now 38, was recently on vacation from his Iowa home going to northern Minnesota and made a point to stop and introduce himself to Brophy.
“He introduced his wife and kids to me. That meant a lot.”
Brophy said when he shot his gun this past week, it was a joy.
“Oh, it was fun!”
Though the stroke has left him a bit weaker — he almost fell once after discharging his gun but caught himself — every day he is getting better.
And not only is he shooting again, he’s back working in his home-based business making trophies. He makes between 4,000 to 5,000 wood and leather plaques a year and “I only hit myself once a week or so with the hammer,” he said.
Brophy said he was always an emotional person, but since the stroke, the tears come more quickly. Part of that is because he’s grateful to be alive.
“Everything is different now,” he said. “The stroke was a wake-up call. I have a whole different perspective now. Every day the sun is shining.”