Portrait with shotgun inspires romance for this NRA super team.
Bachenbergs standing in front of a shooting station.
When Bill and Laura Bachenberg took the stage as part of a record number of NRA Golden Ring of Freedom honorees during the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Houston, few would have guessed that this classy couple came together due to an arrangement of megapixels.
Bill and Laura, who own and operate Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays near Allentown, Pa., met online. Laura was a Lt. Col. in the Air National Guard, about ready for retirement and interested in meeting a man who was more than just average. Bill was an overworked computer company executive who kept his sanity through links to his happy farming childhood—hunting, fishing and the shooting sports.
Laura was stationed in Oklahoma City but was interested in relocating to the Allentown area. Bill, known for his workdays that extended to one and two in the morning, had been urged by friends to get a life.
So he took their advice—begrudgingly, perhaps—and posted a profile on a dating website. His bio came with a “picture upon request” caveat. For Laura, this outdoorsy guy with a big heart (even then, he was active in charities) sounded like fun. So she rolled the dice and asked for a mug shot.
These moss-covered walls, once part of a limestone quarry, have now been converted into a unique shooting station.
Bill sent several: one with his Jeep; one with a king-sized tuna he had recently caught (and with his girlfriend at the time conveniently cropped out). But the best was a professional portrait, taken with Bill’s Krieghoff shotgun slung over his shoulder. For Bill, it was a way to let potential lady friends understand that firearms, hunting and his NRA involvement were central to his life. Laura didn’t even bat an eye. As she’d kid him later, the guy in the picture was OK, but man, what a shotgun!
Over the months they shared emails, phone calls and dinner dates. Soon Laura knew she was falling for this former farmer who’d taken a chance on building a data storage and retrieval firm, watched it simmer, flare up and simmer again, and then, through the sheer force of his strong will and work ethic, made it overwhelmingly successful.
HIS SPECIAL INTEREST REVOLVED AROUND DISABLED SHOOTERS.
And even though Bill’s work habits were legendary, he had found time over the years to remain an active NRA member, work on a variety of NRA causes and eventually become a member of the NRA’s Board of Directors. His special interest revolved around disabled shooters, and he pledged his efforts to growing the number of firearm-related events that the disabled—ranging from returning veterans to children with disabilities—could excel in.
Along the way Bill picked up a secondary business. It was a sporting clays range—one in need of work, money and basically a top-to-bottom facelift. “I didn’t really need another business at the time,” Bill recalls. But he’d become a fan of sporting clays, following a day of shooting in the rain, also managing to fall in love with the sport. After Bill and Laura’s relationship grew serious and wedding bells rang, Bill entrusted much of the management of Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays to Laura; the business didn’t miss a beat.
“Laura did very well,” Bill recalls. “She’s got good business sense, and although she always bounced her ideas off me, it was obvious that the right decision had already been made. “We grew the range from nothing, basically,” Bill remembers. “It has gone from a construction trailer and a cinderblock building to our modern, log cabin clubhouse. We increased the number of stations, and kept improving the aesthetics because we wanted it to be a really nice place to shoot. I always wanted a country club atmosphere, and three years ago we paved the entire course. That made it wheelchair accessible, and we’re presently working with the NRA Committee for Shooters with Disabilities to make the course more accessible to the handicapped.”
A love for the outdoors brought them together, and today they are sharing that love with twin sons.
Bill and Laura point out wild game in the woods near their Pennsylvania home.
Someday, Bill says, he envisions the course as a northeastern USA focal point for families to gather and learn how to shoot. He says he wants to bring a wider variety of people and the shooting sports together—he wants kids to take their first shots at Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays. He wants women to lose their distrust of firearms here.
“We really try to be women-friendly here,” Bachenberg says. “We keep our restrooms nice and clean. There’s no smoking around or in the clubhouse. We’ve had a number of our guns modified, stocks cut down, the shotguns ported, to reduce recoil. We provide shells with light loads. We host bachelorette parties, birthday parties, NRA Women On Target programs. And throughout it all we emphasize firearm safety and responsibility.”
Safety first took on added meaning when Bill and Laura’s twin boys were born. Appropriately named Hunter and Chase, the twins learned early on about Eddie Eagle, symbol of the NRA’s child firearm safety program. They also became the NRA’s youngest Life members.
NOW the NRA’s valentine couple has grown into its all-American family.
But the burden of raising twins made it tough to run a computer firm, manage a sporting clays facility and have a family life during the scant hours in between. Bill’s accountants had been urging him to sell, and Laura wanted to end her husband’s workaholic ways before the doctors did. So the computer data storage business went on the block, and the Bachenbergs found time to enjoy things they’d never even considered before, like vacations.
Now the NRA’s valentine couple has grown into its all-American family, and as all who know them are quick to attest, a nicer bunch you’ll never meet. The boys are big enough to tag along on work days, and once on the ground they actually work—picking up spent shotgun shells, raking leaves, laboring harder than some of the teenagers he knows, Bill points out.
“They like to go to work,” says the proud papa. Of course the allure of machinery tends to hold sway, so there’s ample pestering to get aboard the tractors. But that’s a good sign, the Bachenbergs acknowledge. After all, someday these small boys may be the big ones planning upgrades and pouring over the books. Bill and Laura hope their sons grow into adults with lives steeped in honesty, integrity, a strong work ethic and a sense of patriotism. Bill, in particular, hopes his boys share some of the joy he found as a youngster growing up on a farm.
The kids have their BB guns, and soon they’ll be old enough for a fine pair of .22 caliber rifles being held in reserve for just the right time. Bill wants them to have the freedom to roam as he did, plink at targets, cut their hunting teeth on small game, grow into young men eager to spend time in the Pennsylvania deer woods. He hopes they learn to love the land and the wild game it nourishes, and learn to be good stewards so that they can pass this cherished American tradition on to their own daughters and sons.
And, since the boys were practically born NRA Life members, there’s hope that the youngsters will someday do their part to protect what they cherish, to keep the Second Amendment flame alive. Obviously Hunter and Chase will receive ample guidance in this regard. Bill and Laura’s work with disabled shooters has been exemplary, and their generosity in helping fund NRA programs is symbolized by those NRA Golden Ring of Freedom jackets that seem such a perfect fit. The website that brought these two together deserves a standing ovation. But then it did get a little help from the folks at Krieghoff.
The National Rifle Association’s 2013 National Disability Awareness Shoot grew out of a desire to showcase NRA’s 20-plus years of promoting and providing disabled shooting programs.
“We also wanted to raise funds for the Shooters with Disabilities Endowment,” Bill Bachenberg said. When the smoke cleared, it was obvious to all concerned that these objectives had been more than met.
When NRA first broached the idea of a national event, Bill and Laura Bachenberg volunteered to hold the event at their Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays facility. “We decided to make sure that the disabled community was actively involved, that the event raised awareness of challenges facing disabled shooters, and that we had an opportunity to listen to, and learn from, all the participants,” Bill said. From the onset, Bachenberg felt that the event needed to be a very unique one. “We wanted the shoot to be special,” he said. “It needed to be, to attract supporters for future events, and to capture the attention of the disabled community.”
Disabled shooters enjoy a day of outdoor fun at the 2013 National Disability Awareness Shoot.
According to Bill and Laura, they had already made several course improvements to facilitate disabled shooters, and wanted to do more. “We figured we could learn a lot from hosting a shoot of this magnitude,” Bill said. As the planning process began to take shape, an event that started as a traditional, one-day sporting clays shoot morphed into a one-of-a-kind, two-day event that, according to Bachenberg, “far exceeded everyone’s expectations.”
“Every minute was exhilarating and contagious,” Bill said. “But I felt there were a couple of highlights, at least for me. For example, Sunday afternoon’s disability shooting clinic turned into an intimate, 45-minute question and answer session with the participants. It was very moving to hear their stories of personal strength, challenges and experiences.
“I felt that our disabled guests were overwhelmed by the fact that the NRA truly cared about their special needs, and actually wanted to do more than just talk,” he added. “As one pointed out, ‘Why should we live lesser lives just because we have disabilities?'”
Another moving moment occurred when a disabled shooter used one of the event’s motorized track wheelchairs to achieve a standing position for the first time in nine years. “You should have seen his smile,” Bachenberg said.
“I found out that we have a real opportunity to better involve the disabled community with the shooting sports,” Bachenberg said. “At the same time, I discovered that we have a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to understanding this segment of the shooting population and providing for their needs. Fortunately, the event helped me see that the disabled community is open to more involvement in shooting, especially the kinds of programs that only the NRA has the experience and expertise to deliver.”
Bachenberg thanked a number of sponsors, including Certified Angus Beef, Bear Creek Mountain Resort, Remington Firearms, White Flyer clay targets, Krieghoff International, entertainers Craig Morgan, Sara Beth and Samantha Landrum.