Robert “Ducky” Baum
Born Jan. 18, 1942, Robert “Ducky” Baum grew up on a small farm near Morton, Ill. As a young man, Ducky and his family worked hard milking cows by hand, tending to the chickens, pigs, sheep and 40 acres of tillable ground. Ducky’s father, a German immigrant, began a small masonry business to help feed his growing family, today known as Otto Baum Co. Inc.
Each of four Baum boys – Mel, Wayne, Ducky and Kenny – worked in the masonry business with their father during the summer months. Each started as a laborer tending bricklayers and, eventually, enlisted in the bricklayer apprenticeship program.
Around 1955, it became obvious that the small family farm would not support the needs of the growing Baum family. More emphasis was placed on the masonry operation, which had grown to between 10 and 15 employees.
In 1956, after completing four years in the U..S. Navy, Mel began to take over management operations of the masonry business, with assistance from his father, Otto, and his three brothers. Within five years, the company grew from 15 employees doing primarily residential masonry to more than 100 employees performing larger commercial projects. As each of the brothers became fully engaged in the business and estimating support staff members were hired, the company grew to more than 300 employees, offering concrete services as well.
In 1969, Mel headed up the concrete division, Wayne had started a small general contracting division, and Ducky had taken over management of the masonry operations, assisted by Kenny. During the next eight years, the company grew.
In 1982, with the potential growth opportunities in the Southwest and a still-challenging economy in the Midwest, Ducky moved to Phoenix to head up the field operations and Kenny took over the Illinois masonry operations with Kurt Baum, Mel’s son, assisting. Ducky worked with Ken Nessler who, in 1978, had secured work and formed a crew of masons and laborers in Phoenix. After overcoming a serious spinal injury, Ken took over all the estimating, marketing, and office administrational duties of the company and a became a key component to the success of Sun Valley Masonry (SVM).
During the next 26 years, Ducky and Ken Nessler and their team experienced tremendous growth in Arizona, before the economy hit the brakes in 2008. During their 26-year growth period, Sun Valley Masonry employed as many as 700 employees and has maintained the rank of the largest mason contractor in Arizona for more than consecutive 18 years.
Ducky and the SVM team in Arizona decided to target some projects in the Oklahoma City area in 2009. Building on the experience and quality of SVM, Ducky and the team were able to secure work in a challenging economy and begin operations in Oklahoma City and surrounding communities. Since 2009, SVM has performed more than $12 million in masonry work within the Oklahoma market. In August 2012, SVM officially opened a third office in Stillwater, Okla.
Robert “Ducky” Baum has excelled from those early years on the farm and the lessons taught by his parents. He has persevered to maintain Christian values and a good work ethic, and to treat people fairly and respectfully, while providing a tremendous product to the customers he serves.
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at www.masonrymagazine.com.