04 Oct Business & Industry Wall of Honor
“We enjoy the quality of community we have because of the vision and creativity of many local business leaders past and present,” was a comment recorded in 2001 from Joe Pavlovsky the 2000/2001 Chamber President. To recognize long appreciated business and industry leaders who have made a significant contribution to the community, the Chamber planned a luncheon ceremony and presented each honoree with a plaque to be displayed on the McPherson Chamber of Commerce Business & Industry Wall of Honor.
John Bremyer, Fred Diehl, M. Clare Miller and Keith Swinhart, Sr. were the first inductees. Two of the four inductees were recognized posthumously, and their families were invited to accept the awards during the inaugural luncheon on April 17, 2001. “This is a very special occasion,” said Joe Pavlovsky, and “…it is important that we let this community know and appreciate the contributions of those we honor. It also allows us to say thank you to those of you who are filling their shoes today.”
The April 2001 Chamber Outlook publication said Bob Wise was the master of ceremonies for the induction, and he “was privileged to have witnessed the vision and daring of the men being honored. All possessed the capacity to see into the future and the fortitude to do what they thought best for McPherson.”
The McPherson Chamber of Commerce Business & Industry Wall of Honor plaques are still proudly displayed at the Chamber office, at 306 N. Main. You are welcome to stop at the Chamber office to read about these pioneers and their contributions. The inscriptions on the plaques are included below.
McPherson Chamber of Commerce Business & Industry Wall of Honor Recipients:
Fred Diehl – Inducted 2001
Fred Diehl, former mayor and general manager of the Board of Public Utilities, was instrumental in making McPherson what it is today. He played a significant role in converting the area from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial-based economy. The late Kansas Governor Bob Bennett, who appointed Diehl to several boards during his administration, said, “Fred was one of the truly great public servants. His desire to serve and ability to serve seemed to be without limits as to energy, as to commitment or as to time… In my view, he should be considered one of the real role models of what public service is all about.”
John Bremyer – Inducted 2001
John Bremyer worked behind the scenes to bring industry and retail diversity to McPherson. Mr. Bremyer was a leader in organizing the McPherson Industrial Development Company. He served as president for five years. He was instrumental in establishing the first McPherson industrial park, the site of numerous successful industries. The gregarious and articulate attorney became one of the city’s best. His community leadership has been marked by vision, optimism, teamwork and a fierce loyalty to McPherson.
Clare Miller – Inducted 2001
Clare Miller, along with brothers Dale and Lloyd, modeled servant leadership in the community, state and nation. The trio inherited the San Ore Construction Company from their father Lee and Uncle Guy Webb. Their company built highways and dams in a five-state area. Other interests included a concrete company, resort, recreational and residential developments, oil wells and exploratory drilling outfit, car and machinery dealerships. But it was Clare Miller’s commitment and service to community development that earned him a place on the Wall of Honor. Mr. Miller was instrumental in the development and success of McPherson Industrial Development Company.
Keith Swinehart, Sr. – Inducted 2001
Ownership of Western States Gas, a propane/butane distribution company, brought Keith Swinehart, Sr. to McPherson. Plastics made him and McPherson an industrial leader in Kansas. In 1957, Mr. Swinehart and his partners bought an extruder that was set up in Dallas. A year later operations of Consolidated Plastics were moved to McPherson. Consolidated began producing PVC in 1959 eventually evolving into Plains Plastics and ultimately in CertainTeed. In 1977 Mr. Swinehart founded Vanguard Piping Systems, Inc. which has become the number one supplier of plumbing products for residential construction.
State Senator Don Steffes – Inducted 2002
Former State Senator Don Steffes began his service in McPherson in 1960 as Manager of the McPherson Chamber of Commerce and Executive Vice President of McPherson Industrial Development Company. One of his first responsibilities was to sell stock in the fledgling MIDC. He left in 1965 only to return in 1968 as Vice President of McPherson Bank & Trust. Later, as President and CEO of the bank, he assisted in recruiting Sterling Drug and Johns Manville.
Jack Thrasher – Inducted 2002
Jack Thrasher served as president and CEO of the National Cooperative Refinery Association from 1974 until his untimely death in 1983. Mr. Thrasher began his tenure at NCRA during a period of uncertainty and peril for the thirteen refineries then operating in Kansas. In 1980, Thrasher led efforts to ensure that the new corporate headquarters was built in McPherson rather than in competing communities. This decision assured the continuation of the company’s operation in McPHerson.
Ernest A. Wall – Inducted 2003
Ernest Wall served as president of Wall-Rogalsky Milling Company from 1925 until his retirement in the mid 80’s. He and his brother John B. Wall guided W-R’s success in a changing industry which saw the number of Kansas flour mills drop from 300 to 15. He played a key role in bringing Sterling Drug to McPherson. He was a member of the McPherson Planning Commission, president of the Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the trustees of the Church of the Brethren and chairman of the executive board of McPherson College.
John B. Wall – Inducted 2003
For most of the sixty years, John and his brother Ernest made the family-owned mill one of the most successful in Kansas. When Ernest retired in the mid 1980’s, John became president. He stayed on as chairman of the board when his son J. Brent Wall assumed the presidency. John Wall served on the McPherson Board of Education as chairman of the special Chamber of Commerce Committee that established the United Way and was a founding shareholder of MIDC. Like his brother, John was instrumental in bringing Sterling Drug to McPherson.
John Casebeer – Inducted 2003
As a businessman, he helped Eck & Johnson start Kansas Jack; saw that the National Guard had an armory; and worked to keep NCRA in McPherson when the company talked about relocating. As a legislator, he introduced the bill that established the first fire district in Kansas, Fire District #1 Canton; saw to it that I-135 went from Salina to Wichita rather than from Junction City to Wichita; and invited then Gov. Bob Docking to help put a road to Sterling Drug. As a county commissioner, he took care of bridges and helped with the courthouse renovation.
George R. Hess – Inducted 2004
George R. Hess was one of McPherson’s most generous entrepreneurs. He moved to McPherson County in 1929 to work in local oil fields. In 1944 he became part owner of Blackstone Drilling Company. Mr. Hess’ philanthropy is legendary. A short list of contributions includes the Hess Fitness Center and the Hess Health Education Center, both at Memorial Hospital; Hess Hall at the First United Methodist Church in McPherson; Hess Family Pool and Park in Canton; Hess Baseball Diamond at Wall Park; and Hess Park in North McPherson.
Bob Wise – Inducted 2004
Bob Wise said, “There is nothing you can say that I really did.” However, other eyewitnesses dispute his rejection of credit noting that he was and is a key player in the efforts to bring industry to McPherson. Sterling Drug and Johns Manville are counted among his shared accomplishments. He worked quietly with governing bodies, interfacing with them and the community, to promote the use of Industrial Revenue Bonds. Bob Wise is credited with the retention, growth and expansion of several local industries. He served as President of MIDC for 9 years and was a board member for 19. Bob said there were a lot of heroes during those years. His development colleagues note that he was one of them.
W.E. Lehmberg – Inducted 2005
Willard E. Lehmberg was born in 1905 in Moundridge, Kansas. He attended school in Moundridge and the University of Kansas. In1929 Bill went to work in Hays, Kansas for the John Deere Plow Company, later that year he was in charge of the McPherson Tractor and Implement Company. In 1941 Bill became vice president of McPherson and Citizens Bank and served as president in 1968, then chairman of the board of McPherson Bank and Trust, a position he held until his death in 1986. Bill served the McPherson community as the first chairman of the McPherson Board of Public Utilities and as president of the McPherson Chamber of Commerce from 1941 to 1945. Also, he served on a variety of different board throughout his lifetime: Kansas Bankers Association, Kansas Wesleyan, Nebraska Natural Gas and the original board of KSNW-TV. Bill was a member of the Kansas University Endowment Association, Kansas Development Credit Corporation and St. Anne’s Episcopal Church.
Chester Houghton – Inducted 2005
Chet was born in 1918 and raised in Roxbury, Kansas. He entered the Army Air Corp in 1941. Returning to Kansas in 1945, he began work in McPherson for a short time at the alfalfa plant, then going to work for the McPherson Board of Public Utilities to 1970. Chet, a neighbor Roy Swick and friend Virgil Anderson visited about a partnership idea for a plastic plant in McPherson. In 1968 Central Plastics was started at West First Street in a 60’ x 140’ building. Their first product was for Columbia Window Supply in Lindsborg. Thirty-seven years later, Central Plastics employ 158 employees and occupies 155,000 sq. ft. facility. Chet has three sons, Dennis, Mark and Kent, who all are involved in the business.
Mr. E.C. Mingenback – Inducted 2006
Mr. E.C. (Eugene) Mingenback began his 52-year career with Farmers Alliance in 1912. Through his leadership, several other insurance companies were formed: the Alliance Mutual Casualty in 1935, and the Alliance Life Insurance Company in 1958 to mention a few. E.C. was the prime catalyst in expanding the business into other fields of insurance and providing the leadership and courage to do so with great success. The companies continued to grow under his leadership and were highly recognized nationally as leaders in the regional insurance industry. With the reorganization of 1940, he was named president then served as Chairman of the Board until his death in 1970. E.C. Mingenback was one of the original organizers of the Kansas State Chamber of Commerce, which he served as president for a period of time.
Eugene and his wife Mary both recognized the important role they could play in the development and support of the McPherson community. The rewards for Eugene’s courage, entrepreneurship and pioneering spirit are now being realized through the Julie J. Mingenback Foundation, established in his mother’s name to carry on the support for an exemplary quality of life in the McPherson community.
Dale Renberger – Inducted 2007
Dale entered the Air Force after completing high school in LaCrosse, Kansas. He entered Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois and returned to LaCrosse to work with his father in the family jewelry store. Dale began his career of public service by being the youngest City Commissioner in LaCrosse at the age of 27, followed by serving as mayor at the age of 28.
In 1956, Dale at the age of 30 purchased Janssen Jewelers, what we all know as Renberger Jewelers for the past 51 years. Dale followed his father’s example in not only the jewelry business, but also in the importance of being involved in his community.
In 1961-62 Dale served as the McPherson Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd President during a very exciting time when McPherson was just in the early stages of industrial development.
Other leadership roles in which Dale has served include: Kansas Retail Jewelers Association, Lions Club, Small Business Development Association, City Center Inc., which Dale was instrumental in the creation of the organization that is now known as McPherson Main Street, Central College Board of Trustees, and various positions with the First Baptist Church. Serving on the Board of Public Utilities board since 1969, Dale states that he has witnessed firsthand the cooperation that McPherson fosters.
Dale and his wife Dolores of 61 years have three children: Terry Renberger, Linda Freeland and Alana Schafer, 8 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
A quote state by Dale’s father and one he has lived by is, “You’re not an adult until you start giving back to the community in which you live.”