There was a family-style celebration at Zuern Building Products in Allenton on Monday as business owners, employees, family and friends gathered to recognize Eugene “Geno” Wolf for his 50 years with the company.
Wolf started at the lumberyard in Allenton when he was about 15 years old. His partner in crime was Larry Breuer. “When I started, June 15, 1968, I didn’t have a drivers license,” said Breuer. “I didn’t know ‘Geno’ at first. He came along working at the company right after I started and then we were almost like brothers at Zuern.”
Breuer said the thing he liked best about Wolf with his mindset. “He thought just like I did,” said Breuer.
In an effort to maintain tradition, after naming a shed after Breuer in 2018 when he celebrated 50 years at Zuern, the crew at ZBP dedicated a shed to Wolf.
Below are some memories of “Geno” and Larry as told by their coworkers.
Jim Zuern – Eugene has a distaste for all things “TOLKO,” in any lumber market at any time of the year. As a buyer he is my go to for advice on good lumber mills, going to miss his good advice when he retires.”
Jim Zuern – “Larry was nicknamed the energizer bunny for good reason he keeps going and going . ZBP can count on his farm-boy mentality and common-sense approach to a problem, if given a task he will get the job done on time and on budget.
Larry is the man who has a memory like an elephant. Old customers, old employees, when a piece of equipment was purchased, what was shipped to a job two weeks prior, where or when something came from……Larry remembers.
Larry makes sure everybody has a nick name. Male, female, new employee, employee from another store…he’s got one for you.
Chris Greuel – It is hard to put into words what these two have meant to me over 28 years. Their work ethic, dedication to ZBP and customers, and loyalty are unmatched. I was amazed how they could be in to work before 4 a.m. and did not finish until 5 p.m.
One particular story I remember with “Geno” is when one woman made some comment about how she loves the smell of cedar. She said this as she walked by the little hole where we kept the cedar shims in the old Shed A. “Geno” and I both laughed as this was not cedar she smelled. This area of the old shed was often used to relieve oneself.
A story with Larry is when Andy Strupp and I were pulling 2×12-24′ for a Badger job. It was winter and the wood was frozen. I pried one loose and pushed it so Andy could grab his end. Being iced, the 2×12 really slid and slammed Andy’s fingers against a pile of wood. I can still hear the naughty words from Andy. Larry was nearby on a forklift and came flying over. He jumped off the lift before it stopped to come to Andy’s aid.
Arlene Mantel – I reflect on their 50 years, the one thing that stands out to me is the incredible dedication these two gentlemen committed to ZBP. They started working right after high school in the yard, loading customers, receiving product from vendors, unloading rail cars, loading trucks, driving trucks, Inventory Management, maintaining the cleanliness in the yard, and daily maintenance on equipment and property. They have done this for 50-plus years in rain, snow, ice, hot, cold, wind. Incredible feat!
With the transition from Don, Bob & Joe Zuern (2nd generation) to their family, 3rd generation, (David, Jim, Greg, Jenny and Tom) Eugene and Larry were very positive and supported the transition very well.
Joe Zuern, 2nd generation owner – As our company grew, Geno was the behind-the-scenes driving force who kept the outside and shipping running, as we sent Larry to break new ground at new sites. Watertown/Cedarburg, both of them played an important part in our growth over the many years.
Larry observed new employees and then couldn’t help but find a nickname for them.
Geno loved Sue’s egg salad sandwiches during Lent (Good Friday)
Although they were employees, we always thought of them as extended family.
Greg Zuern, General Manager – Eugene and Larry are the true pioneers of ZBP’S reputation for great service. I grew up working with Eugene and Larry and they taught me many important life lessons like being on time, working hard, and dedication to customer service. Most days for Eugene and Larry started at 4:30 a.m. and I recall many of times in my youth getting a wakeup call from Eugene, it was very important to Eugene and Larry that are deliveries were on time even if it meant waking up the boss (Don Zuern)and telling him to get his kid out of bed and down to work. I want to truly thank Eugene and Larry for 50 years of service and dedication to ZBP.
Jerry Priesgen – Larry issues everyone a nickname and they all fit the person or their personality. Cricket, Dude, Lot to Learn, Counter girl, Big Kahuna, Daisy, Pretty Boy, MVP, Mud Duck, Gramps, Chicken, Blondie, Doberman and Bullet.
Wolf’s last day will be March 1. Breuer said he plans on sticking around a little bit yet. “I got a couple other guys I can count on,” he said.
This article was originally written by Judy Steffes for the Washington County Insider on February 26, 2019.