I grew up on a farm in Southeastern Wisconsin, near Holy Hill, second-oldest of six children. My parents both worked full-time, so we were on our own a lot, and learned to do whatever needed to be done, most often by taking things apart and trying to put them back together again. In high school, I ran a lot – track and cross country – and tried to play basketball, which is a lot of running, but also requires some other skills which I lacked.
I attended UW-Milwaukee, where I earned a BBA, then went into business on my own – home repair and remodeling – at a time when interest rates were 18% and no one was spending money. So, I returned to school to earn my BSME degree, and got a job with Kimberly Clark in Neenah. During that time, I met and married Randi and we had a son, Ari. A daughter, Kaela, was born soon after our move to Neenah. We spent two years in Connecticut and then moved back to Wisconsin to the home where we still reside.
Randi was taken by breast cancer soon after our move back home, and I found myself a single father with two young children. Thankfully, I had family to help, and sisters to serve as role models for my daughter. It was a struggle at the time, but I believe the experience helped my children become more mature and self-sufficient than their contemporaries.
Ten years ago, I attended a Brewers game (vendor graft, we called it) and there met Mary Jo. We talked during the whole game, yet she wouldn’t sit next to me on the bus ride home – go figure! I eventually won her over, and we will celebrate our tenth anniversary next summer. MJ grew up in Stockbridge (population > 29 and growing!) and has three children – Ashley, Matt and Alex, and between us we have 3 grandchildren, with another on the way. They live too far away – Twin Cities and Merrill – but it’s a joy to see them when we can.
I was introduced to Habitat as part of Dan Clarahan’s team building sessions with KC. We would descend on a Habitat build site with thirty or more people, and Rod would run away screaming… I think we came to a build site his first day, and yet he bravely returned!
After 25 years at KC, I accepted an early retirement offer; mostly to volunteer for Habitat, but also because it was offered… I have been fortunate in my life – intact family, educational opportunities, and a rewarding career – but have experienced enough misfortune to empathize with people, who through circumstance and chance, have a struggle. If I can help some attain the dream of home ownership, I will consider myself even more fortunate.
When not building, we like to garden and farm – chickens and bees (and chipmunks and squirrels) are our livestock. I like to ride bike, and in the fall you can find me in a tree stand patiently awaiting the elusive venison sausage. I also recently fell under the spell of Wizard-of-Turning Jim Parker and have spent an inordinate amount of time holed up in the basement getting to know my new lathe.
Some things that most probably don’t know about me include the fact that I recently rode my bicycle from the west coast to Minnesota, and then from home to the east coast, a total of approximately 3,200 miles. I may have another tour or two left in me but the miles are getting harder! Another thing that might surprise some is that IF ONLY I could work alone, or in a very small group, I’d feel even more fortunate! Mostly kidding, I can play well with others if necessary…