Six Inductees Enter Masonry Hall of Fame
Foeste, Hellmann, Lewis, Merrill, Sutter, and Tedesco Inducted to Masonry Hall of Fame
By Tim O’Toole
On Thursday, January 24, 2019, the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) inducted five individuals into the 2019 Masonry Hall of Fame class during the MCAA Convention at the World of Concrete/World of Masonry in Las Vegas.
The 2019 Masonry Hall of Fame inductees included Kenny Foeste, Clem Hellmann, Alonza Lewis, Robert Merrill, Michael Sutter, and Angelo Tedesco.
Kenny FoesteKenneth E. Foeste, age 76, owner and President of Kenneth E. Foeste Masonry, Inc. was born, raised and has lived in Cape Girardeau, Mo. all of his life.
In 1963, at the age of 22, he entered the masonry field as a hod carrier. He naturally progressed into the Bricklayer Apprentice program and became a Journeyman Bricklayer on April 8, 1969. Four years later, after working for both Drury Company and Ste. Genevieve Building Stone, he started his current company, Kenneth E. Foeste Masonry. His company was incorporated six years later in 1979 and his wife, Judy, joined him full-time as Vice President and Senior Estimator in 1980. They both are still in the field and in the office on a daily basis overseeing operations. Their son, Mark Foeste, has worked in the field for the company from a young age, but became officially employed after he graduated high school in 1983. Within the last four years, three of their grandchildren have also joined the company. Two in the field and one in the office.
Foeste Masonry has long been known and respected as the largest mason contractor between St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn. Kenny has overseen many large projects in the Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky areas. Some of the larger ones being the Closed Maximum Security Prison in Tamms, Ill. in 1997; the Procter & Gamble Paper Making Plant in Cape Girardeau, Mo. in 1999; the United States Federal Courthouse in Cape Girardeau, MO in 2006; and the Jackson High School Addition in Jackson, Mo. in 2008.
Kenny has been a long time member of the Mason Contractor’s Association of America and also the Mason Contractor’s Association of St. Louis. He was a member and past President for many years of the Mason Contractor’s Association of Southeast Missouri. He has carried the title of Certified Mason Contractor for most of his career. At one point in time he served as an Instructor at the Bricklaying School in Cape Girardeau, Mo. He is also a HEK Platforms and Hoists, Inc. Qualified Instructor and was the first mason contractor to bring HEK scaffolding to projects in the Southeast Missouri area. He has also served as a judge for the Fastest Trowel competition in Kansas City, Mo.
Kenny has always felt strongly about promoting masonry within the building industry. As President of the MCA of SEMO, they would invite and send an area architect yearly to the Masonry Showcase to help educate and promote masonry in the architectural/design process. He has also attended many area job fairs educating and encouraging young people to get into the masonry trades. You will always find apprentices on his jobsites as he tries to help educate and train more individuals in the trade.
Kenny was very impactful in the fight for the rights of the ‘Laborers on Lifts’ in this region. It was due to his petitioning and persistence that they were able to keep those rights in the laborers’ agreements versus the operators’. This was a major issue that required court appearances during the construction of the multimillion dollar Tamms, Ill. Maximum Security Prison project.
Kenny Foeste is up every day about 3:00 AM and drags into bed as the sun goes down only because his body cannot go 24 hours a day, because he would if it could. Masonry has been his life and his passion for the past 54 years. People in the Southeast Missouri region and communities who know of him know of his business and his work ethic and will always associate the masonry trade with his name.
Clem HellmannTo quote well known scholar and author Peter Drucker, “Leadership is doing the right things. Great leaders set direction, build an inspiring vision, and guide people to achieve common goals.” Clem Hellmann embodied these qualities throughout his 30 year career in the masonry industry.
Clem and his wife Mary Jo entered the masonry industry in September of 1987 with the purchase of Quality Block Company in Phoenix. Clem was actively involved in the masonry industry and lived the “Givers Gain” philosophy. A philosophy of “What we are given in life, we need to share and give back”.
As a member of the Arizona Masonry Contractors Association, Clem not only supported AMCA financially, but truly gave of himself. He was actively involved, or in today’s terms, “showed up” and “was present.”
He volunteered many hours to the masonry industry serving as a long-standing Board Member of the Arizona Masonry Contractors Association (AMCA) and Arizona Masonry Guild (AMG) and was State Chair for the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA).
He is credited helping producers and contractors understand that non-masonry products/systems are the true “competition” and was the unifying force that brought members together to work for the good of the industry.
He was the industry’s official “Master of Masonry Ceremonies” for all major events including AMCA’s Annual Dinner, Regional Fastest Trowel & Masonry Skills Challenge Competitions and AMG’s Excellence in Masonry Architectural Awards Banquet.
Clem was a strong supporter of our industry’s workforce development efforts.
While serving on the AMCA Apprenticeship Committee, he was involved with the move of the AMCA’s apprenticeship program to the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), where it is still in place today. He also served as the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Construction Technologies Class at EVIT.
He believed the way to attract new talent into the industry was to expose students to the masonry trade in high school.
In his words, “If we can interest students at this level, it is the best way to begin to fill the vast need for construction personnel and careers at all levels.”
His belief was so strong that he paid for a full-time masonry instructor at the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) to work directly with construction students for over five years.
Clem also encouraged and supported members of the Quality Block staff to volunteer their time during works hours to take part in various masonry industry association meetings, events and committee meetings.
In 2007, Clem was presented the AMCA’s Leader of the Year Award. In fact, he was the first person to receive the award established to recognize a member of the masonry industry who contributes time & expertise to industry associations, plays an active role in civic & community affairs, and assists fellow industry members. In short, he or she exemplifies the very best by continually bringing credit to the industry.
Clem’s service and contributions to the masonry industry was so well respected that he also received the Arizona Masonry Guild’s Bart Del Duca Award in 2007 as well. The Arizona Masonry Guild bestows that honor upon one person in recognition of notable and outstanding performance, service or significant achievement in the masonry industry.
Clem passed away in October of 2017. In his honor, the Arizona Masonry Contractors Association established the Clem Hellmann Leadership Award in 2018. This award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the masonry community through leadership of, and/or involvement initiatives that have resulted in industry-wide impact and is representative of the highest level of leadership and involvement. The first Clem Hellmann Leadership Award Leadership Award was presented to Mike Sutter, Sutter Masonry on February 21, 2018. Clem’s absence in the masonry industry is felt every day, but his legacy of working together to build a better future for our industry will live on and inspire many generations to come.
Alonza LewisAlonza “AC” Lewis is the third child born to the late Sam and the Late Alice China Lewis. He was born in Sumter, S.C. AC was educated in the Sumter County schools. He graduated from Eastern High school. While in high school, he played football and sang in the choir. After graduation, AC attended Area Technical Trade School (now known as Denmark Technical College). There he received a degree in Brick Masonry. He also received a degree in Education from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville). AC furthered his education at Winthrop, Clemson, University of South Carolina and South Carolina State University.
AC loves brick masonry and teaching. He realized the need for the brick mason trade to be taught in high schools. So he answered the call and taught brick masonry for 38 years. He taught at Spring Valley and Lexington High schools and Midlands Technical College. His students refer to him as Mr. Lewis and they still appreciate all that he has given them. He has had several students compete in various competitions and win on the State and National levels. AC has assisted several students to open, run and operate their own brick masonry companies. Currently, many of his former students will gladly assist him with various brick laying jobs. He was not just a teacher but a mentor to his students. AC served as President of VICA (now SkillsUSA) for many years. He also served as President of the South Carolina Masonry Instructors Association for many years, but being the visionary that he is, he saw the need to broaden the horizon of the masonry trade on a national level. So, in 1988, he was instrumental in the organization of the National Masonry Instructors Association. AC’s passions for his students and this trade won him the prestigious honor of being inducted into the National Masonry Instructors Association Hall of Fame in 2008.
AC loves sports especially football. He is a basketball and football official. He has been officiating for 43years. AC has officiated two State Football Championship games and the 2009 North-South All-Star Football game. He has also officiated four State Basketball Championship games and the 2007 Carolinas All-Star Basketball Classic. AC has served as the District Five Basketball Director and in 2004 was inducted into the South Carolina Basketball Officials Hall of Fame. He currently serves as a Sideline Crew member for the University of South Carolina home football games.
AC Lewis is a member of Emmanuel AME Church. He has been a member for 27 years. He has served on various committees and was a previous Local Lay President and previous Third Vice-President of the Columbia Conference Lay Organization. AC was also Chairman of the Building Committee for the construction of the current church. He is currently the Steward Pro tem, a member of the Men’s choir, Sons of Allen, Lay Organization, and President of the Columbia District Lay Organization.
AC loves the Lord and loves to worship Him. His favorite hymn is “O Thou, in Whose Presence”. His favorite scripture is St. John 17:1 and it reads “Jesus spoke these things, and then he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, O my Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son, so that thy Son may glorify thee.”
AC is married to the former Dorothy McCants. They have been married for 46 years. They have two children: Doretta (Eric) Gibbs and Cornelius Lewis. They also have three grandchildren: Byron Lewis, Eryka Gibbs and Jomaryi Gibbs.
Robert MerrillRobert Merrill was the founder of Merrill Masonry, Inc., a commercial masonry contracting firm located in Brevard, N.C., which is still in operation, managed by his son-in-law Steve Stout and daughter Debbie Merrill Stout. Mr. Merrill was a founding father of the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association and served as NCMCA’s fourth president in 1977. He was a consistent supporter and leader of the NCMCA “Land of the Sky” Chapter which is active in far western North Carolina and the Greater Asheville area. Mr. Merrill selflessly served the masonry industry with exceptional capability and willingness to recruit, mentor and encourage others in the trade. His service to his community and church were legendary, having served on his county’s school board and county commission for numerous terms, and always willing to donate time, materials, labor and money to missions, community building projects and charitable causes. Robert Merrill was truly an exemplary ambassador for the masonry life.
Born June 13, 1929, Robert began apprenticeship with his dad, Bryan Merrill, in 1945 at age 16. After graduating high school in 1947, he worked with his dad at Ecusta Paper Corporation in Pisgah Forest, N.C. and played for the Ecusta Industrial League Basketball team. From 1948 to 1950, Robert worked in Washington, DC with Bennett & Stevens Contractors. Robert joined the Navy in 1950, and was honorably discharged after 3 months due to knee injuries from basketball. From 1950 to 1952, he worked for Garland Sherman Masonry in Chattanooga, Tenn, before marrying Lois Heath on February 12, 1952 in Brevard, N.C. Robert moved to Nashville, Tenn. to work for Bush Builders, before working for Hinchliffe and Keener Refractory, traveling over the U.S. for five years building brick boilers. His job was to go to a town, hire a crew and supervise them until the job was completed, giving him valuable experience for forming his own business later.
In 1957, Robert returned home to Western North Carolina to work as a residential mason. He formed Merrill and Smith Masonry in 1958 with his father and Gerald Smith, before beginning Merrill Masonry in 1960. Merrill Masonry incorporated in 1967. In 1994, Robert retired from active participation in the business.
Robert began meeting with MCAA Hall of Fame member Glenn W. Sipe and commercial masonry contractors Ivey Griffin and Red Brookshire to form what is now NCMCA. He served in several different capacities and on committees and was NCMCA’s fourth president (1977). He served as president of the Land of Sky Mason Contractors many times, as well as other offices in the chapter.
Mr. Merrill taught Sunday School for 35 years and served as a deacon for 50-plus years at First Baptist Church in Brevard, N.C. He was an active member of the Brevard High School Blue Devil Club and was instrumental in the construction of the field house and the press box. He served two terms as a member of the Transylvania County School Board and one term as a Transylvania County Commissioner. He was a lifetime trustee for Mars Hill University after serving active terms for 25-plus years. He was also active in the Shriner’s Club for 40-plus years.
He has been involved in many mission trips during his life, laying bricks and blocks in communities in Paraguay, Brazil, Dominican Republic and West Virginia.
Since beginning Merrill Masonry, at least 20 masons who worked for him or apprenticed under him, went on to own their own masonry companies.
Mr. Merrill passed away November 16, 2018. He was 88 years old.
Michael SutterIn 1991, Mike and his wife Colleen opened Sutter Masonry. Mike lives the “Givers Gain” philosophy in both his personal and professional life. Mike’s greatest gift to the industry is the investment of his time and service to our state and national masonry associations.
Mike has been a member of the Arizona Masonry Contractors Association since 1994 and a board member since 1995. He has served as President, Vice President, and Treasurer and Apprenticeship Committee Chair. In fact, he played a pivotal role in getting the apprenticeship program up and running in Arizona. In addition to serving on numerous committees such as Certification and the Regional Fastest Trowel Competition. He also served as Chairman of the Golf and Safety Committee.
Mike has also been a member of the Arizona Masonry Guild since 1995 and a board member since 2000. During his involvement in both associations, he has chaired many committees and participated in the development and implementation of many AMCA and AMG initiatives and programs.
Mike is very passionate about workforce development for the industry. In 2017, Mike’s passion for recruiting our next generation of mason led him to form a partnership with the Construction Trades Program at West-MEC’s Verrado Campus. In typical Sutter style, Mike offered to provide an experienced mason to work with students during the masonry unit only if the school was willing to increase the length of instruction time from 2 weeks to 8 weeks - the school agreed. Mike Gray from Sutter Masonry along with Mike Sutter spent most of August and September of 2017 working with the 1st and 2nd-year construction students. Sutter Masonry’s investment of time in that program has paid off! In the October 2017 Masonry Skills, Mike’s West-MEC students swept the competition taking 9 of the 10 top spots in the high school division. Sutter Masonry also sponsored the top 3 West-MEC students and their instructor to attend the Masonry Madness Day during the World of Concrete/World of Masonry Convention in Las Vegas. In addition, 6 of the students applied for and were accepted into AMCA’s Central Masonry Apprenticeship Program and had jobs waiting for them when they graduated.
Over the last few years, Mike has played a pivotal role in the industry’s lobbying efforts at the state capital. His testimony during various legislative committee hearings has helped prevent bills from going into effect that would have been detrimental for our industry. Mike’s participation in stakeholder meetings for House Bill 2114 Declaration of Independent Business Status during the 2016 legislative session led to the construction industry being carved out of the bill. Without this change, the practice of misclassification of employees as independent contractors in the construction industry would have become even more widespread than it is today and make it more challenging for companies who comply with the state and federal regulations and laws to compete on a level playing field.
More recently, Mike has been the driving force behind the development of a new funding program which will be a “game changer” for the masonry industry throughout the entire state. When launched, the program would establish an Arizona Masonry Council and finally provide the financial resources to move our industry from its traditional reactive position to being a proactive industry.
Those are just a few of Mike’s contributions to our industry at the state level. But his contributions do not stop there. Over the years, he has made a number of contributions to the industry at the national level.
In January 2018, Mike completed his term as Chairman of the Mason Contractors Association of America and Colleen as First Lady of the Masonry Industry. Although his term as Chairman was only two years, he served a total of eight years on the MCAA Executive Committee, and that does not include his years of service as Region G Vice President and Arizona State Chair prior to that.
During his term as Chairman, Mike and Colleen spent numerous hours away from their company in order to travel to various MCAA chapters and other masonry state associations meeting and events. This was all done at their own expense.
During his tenure as Chairman, MCAA went from a membership of 620 members to 930 members - which set the recorded for the largest growth in membership in any two year period in MCAA’s history.
Under his leadership, MCAA also developed a Silica Train-the-Trainer Compliance program for members. MCAA has trained over 520 trainers across the US. MCAA estimates that these trainers have since trained close to 3,000 masonry employees since the program was launched in early 2017.
Mike also played a vital role in deciding to bring MASONRY magazine back “in house” under MCAA after a period of 20 years. This move will allow MCAA to more effectively communicate its message and has had a significant impact on membership recruitment and many other initiatives.
As Chairman, Mike oversaw MCAA’s purchase of the Masonry Design publication which is targeted to the design community and will provide MCAA with the means to communicate the advantages and benefits of designing with masonry products and systems.
Mike also pursued the goal of securing MCAA state chairs in every state. He reached a high number of State Chairs, and as a result, the participation level of the state chairs has increased significantly during his term.
Mike initiated the development of employee onboarding videos for members in order to continue to add value for members. These videos will be safety driven and will be free for members to use to train their new employees and prepare them within a day for going onto the job-site.
In February 2018, Mike was the first recipient of the Clem Hellmann Leadership Award, which was established to honor the memory of Clem who passed away in October of 2017. The Clem Hellmann Leadership Award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the masonry community through leadership of and involvement in initiatives that have resulted in industry-wide impact.
Despite his success, he still is very grounded and humble. He is the first to credit his extraordinary team for their support which over the years enabled him to be so actively involved in the state and national masonry associations and know that everything back at the office is in good hands. This team is lead by his partner in life and business - Colleen Sutter; his daughter, Aimee who has become an integral part of the Sutter Masonry organization; and his brother Jack who has worked with Mike since the beginning of Sutter Masonry.
When he is asked what he does for a living, Mike doesn’t say he owns masonry company or that he sits on various boards and committees. He simply replies, “I’m a bricklayer.” To us and many of our counterparts across the country, Mike is much more than simply “a bricklayer.” Through his active involvement, leadership, and dedication to our industry, he has laid the foundation for many generations of block and bricklayers to come.
Angelo TedescoAngelo Sr. was born on November 13, 1936 in San Martino, Avellino, Italy. He is the oldest of six children and was the last of his family to arrive in the USA on July 4, 1958.
He has dedicated his life toward the masonry industry since his late twenties and has impacted the growth of masonry in the northeast by his leadership both within and outside of the trade.
Upon arrival in America, speaking and understanding none to very little English, his first job was at a restaurant in Killington, Vt., the largest ski area in the Eastern United States. Thirty-nine years later, he was the president of his own successful masonry company that was constructing the single largest masonry project, that same Killington ski area had ever built, at the Killington Grande Hotel & Conference Center incorporating cmu, stone, fireplaces, precast and granite. His company has continued to perform additional masonry work there over the years and has completed projects there as recently as June of 2017.
During his early years in America, he developed his understanding of the English language and made long lasting contacts and relationships at the Vermont Railroad company based in Proctor VT from 1959 to 1961 and then at the Howe Scale Company at the Foundry Plant in Rutland, Vt. from 1961 to 1962.
He was married on April 28, 1962 to Anna Lena. The honeymoon was short as he was drafted in October of 1962. He was in the US Army until 1964, stationed for many months in Greenland. In April 2019, they will celebrate 57 years of marriage together.
Upon returning to America from Greenland, he worked at Callahan Machinery in Proctor, Vt. from 1964 to 1966. He would return to Proctor, Vt. in 2002 as the masonry contractor for the national award winning (by the Natural Stone Institute and the Marble Institute of America), extensive Proctor Marble Bridge Rehabilitation project, as listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built in 1915, this historical project featured extensive replacement of all the marble spandrels and balustrades across the 170 feet span that is 36 feet above the Otter Creek. A total of 528 pieces were installed, totaling over 1,500 sq. ft. of marble.
During the mid 60s, was the time when Angelo would begin his masonry career, quickly learning and progressing his way up through the ranks working for masonry companies that had available work. The first company he joined was in Burlington, Vt. from 1966 to 1969, where he completed his training as a mason. He was also a member of the National Guard during this time from 1964 to 1969. From 1970 to 1977, he would then work for a company in Clifton Park, N.Y. Keep in mind that each company‚Äôs location required a two-hour drive commute, each way, to the job sites.
Angelo Sr. never let his persistent learning of the English language or the closed mindedness of other people against foreigners, inhibit him from continued growth and advancement in the masonry industry and in the fulfillment of life. He and Anna Lena would also begin a family during these early years. As a team, they would eventually raise 4 children, one daughter and three sons.
In 1977, Angelo decided to stay closer to home and work in Vermont. The union was in decline in Vermont, so he began doing chimneys and stonework for the people he met and the lasting contacts he made along the way, at the other non-masonry companies he previously worked for. He began to take on more intricate work and developed a passion for masonry, honing his craft while gaining valuable experience with all types of masonry materials and concrete. He also began investing in more employees, constantly training and teaching others that were interested in learning the proper skills of the masonry trade. When they were available, he still helped out some of his past masonry employers on some of their larger masonry projects.
In May of 1988, Angelo Tedesco Inc. was officially incorporated. The business grew steadily over the years through quality workmanship and by word of mouth referrals from pleased customers, business owners and general contractors.
These traits are still active today, as his business has evolved into A. Tedesco Masonry. Family has always played a huge role in the success of the company and all four of his children are currently active and involved with the masonry business and the advancement of the masonry trade. Through his years of continued learning and dedication to the craft, A. Tedesco Masonry has developed a strong reputation for quality and efficiency and is currently one of the largest masonry contractors in central/southern Vermont while also completing work in N.Y., N.H. and Mass.
The current masonry industry in the state of Vermont can be very grateful for the major impact Angelo Sr. has had on the development and knowledge he has accomplished and extensively shared with others in the trade since the early eighties. Towards the end of his career, he had also consulted on many historical masonry projects and renovations. If a masonry project was extremely difficult or unpopular, Angelo Sr. was usually contacted to get involved in one-way or another, either as a mason contractor or a consultant and many times, both.
Angelo Sr. has also taken the time over the years to introduce local high school students, with technical aspirations, to the masonry trade. He has invited these students on project sites, in order to give them a first hand look and feel of a real masonry jobsite and give them a try at laying a brick or two. He has donated his time to brick chimney builds with these same students over the years, on homes the technical center students have constructed. He has also donated labor and materials to the exterior faces of Habitat for Humanity projects in order to promote the value and materials of masonry.
Angelo Sr. has been an active member of St. Peter Catholic Church and the Italian-American Club, where he has been a bocce player for more than a few decades and a captain of the Old Timers bocce team for the past dozen years. He has been an active supporter of many local community events and A. Tedesco Masonry has sponsored numerous schools, athletic events, clubs, teams and churches ranging from donations, to equipment use, to sponsoring youth soccer programs with thousands of masonry t-shirts being given out over the years.
A. Tedesco Masonry has been a member of the MCAA for 21 years, joining in 1997. The company, under Angelo Sr.’s leadership, has always promoted masonry, as well as, safe job sites and development. His eldest son, Angelo II, has learned under his guidance since he was on the job sites since the age of 13. Angelo Sr. has helped mentor and develop well over 50 masons and mason tenders throughout his time in the trade. He has always made it a point to help general contractors and other subs, to complete projects on time with profitability.
The MCAA has been a great partner with Angelo Sr. in the promotion of the masonry industry and the development of the future workforce. With the MCAA resources and conventions, the company has always promoted industry awareness. It has always been one of the first companies in Vermont to utilize masonry innovations and new products and procedures along the way including crank up staging, to mast climbers, to grout hogs and mixers with silos. Each year employees are participating in MCAA sponsored meetings, events, auctions and education.
Angelo Sr. has dedicated his life to building his family and the masonry trade through grit, never being afraid to try something new, through development and learning and through honorable values as a husband, a father, a business owner and as a leader of the masonry trade both on and off the job sites.
About the Masonry Hall of FameThe Masonry Hall of Fame was created to recognize and award those individuals who have dedicated their lives to the masonry industry. Each year, nominations are accepted to recognize individuals who have had a major impact on the masonry industry, not necessarily with just the MCAA, and have been in the industry for a minimum of 25 years.
All inductees are nominated by their peers and carefully reviewed by a panel of judges. Nominees must receive two-thirds of the eligible votes in order to be accepted into the Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is held during the Closing Banquet of the MCAA Convention at the World of Concrete/World of Masonry in Las Vegas.
Nominations for the 2020 Masonry Hall of Fame class will be accepted July 1 through October 1, 2019. Please visit www.masoncontractors.org/hall-of-fame for additional information and a full list of Masonry Hall of Fame members.
About the Author
Tim O’Toole is the Director of Marketing for the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA). He has a Masters in Business Administration from Webster University and has worked in the masonry industry since 2003.