Know your local history

Staff Writer
Morton Times-News

Know your local history is putting the spotlight on an individual who claimed late in his career that his shadow on the job site was worth $100 per day in terms of production, work ethic, frugality and fairness.

Were this man alive today, he would be celebrating his 108 birthday.

This 21-year-old immigrant came to this country penniless in 1925 from Stanenbach, Germany. He only had an eighth grade education, but he had learned the masonry trade back in the fatherland.

He had no money and was indentured to a local farmer, who paid his voyage across the oceans, and was obligated to work for two years for food and shelter only.

His request to the farmer of getting a pair of gloves for protection against his first bitter cold winter was rejected by the farmer who replied, “Let’s get the fare paid off, then we can talk about gloves for next year.”

Nevertheless, a lovely young Morton maid caught his fancy, and, on Dec. 11, 1930, they joined in holy matrimony.

She was a farm girl, and it was only natural for him to put his newly acquired farming skills to work on his ailing father-in-law’s farm.

However, in time it became clear that the farm wasn’t enough to sustain our hero’s growing family.

Even though he was severely handicapped with his lack of English and his heavy accent (our man never learned to write in English), he started a masonry business to feed the ever expanding family, which in time grew to seven children.

By 1955, he had 15 masons on the payroll that did primarily residential masonry. A financial statement from 1960 showed that the company had over half a million dollars in revenue.

Over the next 10 years or so, his company expanded into the commercial market and their employee base grew to over 100.

Since then, his sons and grandsons entered the business and other construction services were added. Today, the company that bears his name has sales in excess of $50 million, and pays more than $10 million annually in taxes and employee benefits.

Moreover, the company expanded beyond a local presence.

By the work ethic and Christian values instilled into his family, and through the loyalty of their employees, several of them with 40 years or more of service, this man’s posterity expanded into numerous states with several subsidiaries.

In fact, in 2013, Engineering News Report, a magazine that rates and publishes the top 100 General Contracting firms, placed our hero’s creation at No. 89 when all lumped together.

I wonder if he ever imagined a company of this magnitude as he ventured across the Atlantic into the unknown.

Today, our heroes’ original logo is seen around town as his company continues to provide masonry services along with others such as masonry restoration, concrete and civil construction services.

If you have an inkling as to who this individual was, send your answer via email to pienaryweb1@yahoo.com.

The first 10 correct answers will be invited to Eli’s Cafe for a free cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

PS. In this age of government subsidies, stimulus, cash for clunkers and so called income inadequacies, would it be possible for such a man to create a company that pays such exuberant amount of taxes and employee benefits? Personally, I think it is possible.

People with inordinate amount of will, determination and faith in their own ability will do it in a heartbeat.

But, it takes proper stimulation. Txt-ing on an iPhone may not be the best teacher.

— Submitted by Rudy Heusuk