Remembering Industry Icon, Bill Dentinger
Appropriately so, our industry, the masonry industry, is built on a solid foundation. A foundation that steadies the ship generation to generation from the dedication and care given to it by those who came before us and acted as stewards to the industry. This past Sunday, MCAA lost one of those stewards in the passing of Bill Dentinger. Bill would roll his eyes at that last sentence as he would suggest he did no more than anyone else and less than plenty for our industry. Nonetheless, he was an active MCAA member throughout his entire adult life, and he left a mark that is burnished with others who have helped steady our ship and helped to build our foundation.
Those of you who had the pleasure of interacting with Bill in years past will recall that he was as smart as a whip and one of a handful in his MCAA generation counted on for input during the various challenges, recessions, and such during his most active years. He was also well known and loved for his uncanny ability to fill a room with laughter even in the most stressful of times. He was brilliantly quick with a witty remark to crack the ice or make a new MCAA member feel welcome. He and his wife Shirley made many lifelong friends at MCAA whom he also considered mentors and looked up to and leaned on for advice and guidance when facing challenges with his business back home. He then reciprocated that to others who came after him.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1939 and the eldest of eight children, college was not an option for him. So, he joined the Navy to complete his required service owed to our country. Having married his high school sweetheart, Shirley, they planned to return to Milwaukee as soon as his Navy service was complete. He wrote regular letters to his uncle Rich Kemp who owned Superior Masonry Builders back home. He would update Uncle Rich on how his service was going and hoping to secure a job at Superior when he returned. Bill worked for Superior for 15 years or so and was purposefully involved in both the local and national masonry associations during that time. This helped him to form a large group of mentors and allies. He began many decades of volunteer service to the industry on association committees, board positions, union trustee positions, labor negotiations and so on. In the mid 1970’s Bill used the respect and solid reputation he had fostered with local suppliers, contractors, and field workers to gain trust around town for he and Shirley to start their own masonry business. They put everything they had on the line and Bill Dentinger, Inc. – masonry contractor was launched. It’s a special storyline, but also a very familiar storyline to likely many of the companies within our industry. Entrepreneurial Americans working tirelessly and risking much in their efforts to provide a good life to their family.
While he was always involved in the masonry industry, first and foremost, Bill was dedicated to his wife of 61 years and his family. His dedication to his wife cannot be overstated as he always put her first no matter what else was going on. Their strong marriage enabled any success they had. Bill and Shirley raised their four children, Peggy, Bill, Dick, and Kathryn in a loving household. Each of their kids worked for the company either in the field or in the office every summer and during breaks throughout their high school years so they would be exposed to the value of hard work. It was good. Not surprisingly, his sons Bill and Dick went on to start a masonry business of their own in Minnesota with the help and guidance of Bill and Shirley. Also a very familiar storyline in our industry.
While some contractors reward themselves for their hard work with passions such as golf or fishing, Bill’s hobbies were handicapping horse racing and Vintage Sportscar Racing. He built his own horse-racing handicapping program and tested his program against the experts for decades. Even winning a Las Vegas Journal-Review season-long handicapping contest just two years ago. While he knew little about cars as a kid, after having a little success in business he bought his high school dream car – a Triumph TR3. He constantly read books and articles about cars and engines and became a well-known historian of sorts both in the US and in England for all things related to Triumph Sportscars. And he raced in his Triumph TR3 and Tornado cars all over America in Vintage Sportscar Racing events for 30 years.
After recent years of declining health, Bill passed away peacefully with Shirley at his side. No COVID, just exhaustion after a life lived fully and wonderfully.
The memories of valued allies to our masonry industry such as Bill Dentinger, are treasures that we can keep with us and tap into for knowledge while they are still with us as others take their turns at helping to be stewards of our industry and continue to enhance our foundation so those who follow us also have an opportunity to make a good career in such a rewarding industry.
About the Author
Dick Dentinger is part of the management team at B&D Associates in St. Paul, Minn. He has served has the Membership Committee Chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America.