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story.lead_photo.caption Dave McMullen stands by an F105 Thunderchief model he recently completed. He describes it as his "current favorite model. Usually the last one I finish is my favorite, at least temporarily. I like the way it came together, the colors came out well." He said the shark mouth detailing on this model is a decal. The design was painted on a lot of F105s. Photo by Christy Busby Worsham / Texarkana Gazette.

Dave McMullen, a 62-year-old teacher at Pleasant Grove Middle School, built his first model when he was 6 years old.

"I have always been fascinated with anything in the miniature scale," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's a train, a plane, a ship or a dollhouse. I've had a lot of model train layouts. I still build planes and ships."

Gallery: Dave McMullen: Livin' the model life

McMullen does not usually build model cars. He found a model car in his grandparent's closet when he was 6 that had belonged to his uncle. He built the model by himself and has been a fan of models ever since.

"I learned how to do airbrushing, and I started entering my models into contests," McMullen said. "I won a lot of awards. I have won awards in Kansas, Tennessee, Texas and Arkansas. Turns out that I am good at it, and I really enjoy doing it."

For 25 years, McMullen lived in Dallas, Texas, and just did not have the time to build models. But when he moved back to Texarkana in 1989, McMullen got back into model building.

Bill Sharp taught him how to airbrush models. McMullen purchased an airbrush set similar to what Sharp owned, and it made his models' paint go from average to superb.

"The real machines are spray painted too, so it makes sense to spray paint models," McMullen said. "It was a game changer, and the airbrush was the best tool for paint."

The awards for model building included plaques, medals, trophies and certificates. He entered contests for a period of five years. The last first-place award he earned was at a contest in Little Rock for a large submarine model in 2002. He won two awards—best overall ship and best overall submarine.

"After I won two awards, I thought, 'I am not going to get any better than winning two awards with the same model in one contest,'" McMullen said. "The most challenging part about model building is having to sand parts to make them fit better. I do not enjoy sanding. It is part of it though, and it must be done. Sanding is challenging and boring."

The gifted model builder works well with plastic and has learned how to repair it. His favorite part is putting the decals on the models.

"I have an F-105 Thunderchief that I am very proud of," McMullen said. "I worked on it for about five months. I repainted part of it twice because I didn't like the way it turned out the first time. The kit did not go together easily, and it was challenging. The model is about 2 feet long."

He did not build any Vietnam-era airplanes when he was young, mainly due to not being able to accurately depict the paint schemes. All he had to work with as a child was a regular paint brush. McMullen began building Vietnam-era planes in 2005.

The Thunderchief is 1:32 scale, but most of McMullen's models have been 1:72. Most of the ships he has built have been in the 1:700 scale.

"I have gotten into the larger scale recently because I can see it better and it is easier to work with," McMullen said. "I can add a lot more detail to the larger scale models than I can the smaller ones.

"It keeps me busy and keeps my hand-eye coordination sharp. I have built about 150 models and have more in storage to build. I have hoarded models, and there is no way that I will get to them all."

McMullen is an avid walker and walks several miles each day. The farthest he walked in one day was 12 miles. McMullen has walked about six different paths in Texarkana, including the 6-mile path out at Bringle Lake.

"Two years ago, I was overweight," McMullen said. "I decided that I was going to do something about it. I had been walking on and off for years, but this time I made up my mind to be more consistent. I started watching what I ate, and I lost 78 pounds."

McMullen's knee problems went away and he was able to get off his blood pressure medicine.

"The best part about walking is the mental therapy," he said. "Walking strengthens my relationship with God. God and I have had a lot of great talks about different things. He has always helped me get through things that I've needed a lot of help with."

The model builder is a member of First Baptist Church on Moores Lane in Texarkana, Texas. McMullen has been attending First Baptist for about four years.

He likes to shoot basketball at Pleasant Grove Middle School's gym when it is too hot outside to walk. McMullen began shooting basketball when he was 6.

"I enjoy going up to the gym, putting on some music and getting some exercise," he said. "My goal is to be the first 80-year-old to hit a 3-pointer at the middle school gym."

McMullen purchased a left-handed guitar and will take lessons soon. He has a girlfriend, Sherry.

"Sherry is wonderful and is a big part of my life," he said. "We spend a lot of time together. We enjoy dining out and watching movies together."

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