A naive folk-art painter, Hemmerling's career started after he had retired from being a window dresser for Sears & Roebuck in 2002. Using discarded house paint, he painted scenes of rural African-American rituals and religion on wood and other found objects.
Born in Chicago, he relocated to his mother's hometown of Ponchatoula as a young man, and began working for Sears as a decorator, traveling from store to store across Louisiana and Mississippi. Looking to make a living after retirement, he began painting on wood that he found on his walks around town. One day, he went into the Louisiana Furniture and Art Gallery in Ponchatoula and at the owner's request, showed some of his work. The rest is history, as they say, and Hemmerling's work gained much recognition over the following years. His work was exhibited at Art Expo New York and other places. He produced a painting a day, sometimes more, and saw the value of his work rising from $75 in 2002 to around $20,000 in 2009. In 2005, his portrait of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden was featured on the official poster for Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
Bill Hemmerling died after a long bout with colon cancer on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, in Ponchatoula, Louisiana.
On Friday, June 19, 2009 a funeral mass is to be held at Our Lady of Guadaloupe Church, 411 Rampart St., New Orleans, Louisian, followed by the traditional jazz funeral procession.
Obituary, Times-Picayune newspaper, June 17, 2009.