March 14, 2008
Focus on Concrete/Masonry
Masonry pioneer Eugene George joins Grand Valley Construction Association’s Hall of Fame
Some 57 years after co-founding the company that would come to be known as GA Masonry, industry pioneer Eugene George was inducted into the Grand Valley Construction Association’s Hall of Fame.
“I was surprised and proud,” says George, the company’s president, who turns 78 next month but still works seven days a week and remains active in masonry industry circles on both sides of the border.
George, who served as the first president of both the Canadian and Ontario masonry contractors’ associations, was also the first Canadian to head both the Mason Contractors’ Association of America and the International Masonry Institute.
He estimates he spends about 35 per cent of his time on association business.
“Because I’ve been around so long, the industry leans on me quite a bit,” George says with a chuckle. “I have a pretty full schedule.”
George, who went into business with his friend Bob Asmussen in 1951 after apprenticing as a bricklayer, has witnessed dramatic changes in the industry from the days when general contractors hired bricklayers directly and masonry was a backbreaking and dying trade. “When I started out, we had wood scaffolding,” he recalls.
“We dug pits and slacked lime. The brick companies packed the brick in straw and dumped them at the site. We handled materials with hods and shovels.
“Sometimes, we even had to throw bricks up the scaffolding on a shovel. It was hard work.”
Since then, George says there have been “immense” advances in technology alone. A case in point is materials handling.
George, who has a reputation for business acumen, founded CareLift Equipment Ltd. in 1962.
The plant, which was recently sold, manufactures rough-terrain forklifts.
Breslau-headquartered GA Masonry has offices in Calgary and Ottawa as well as the United States.
One of George’s proudest moments was in 2005 when his firm won the coveted North American masonry project of the year award for its work on the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
“There wasn’t one straight line in that building,” George says in reference to the project’s curvilinear shapes.
Business aside, the community-minded George is a thoroughbred horse owner and former pilot.
A hockey fan, he was instrumental in bringing the Kitchener Rangers to town.
While he doesn’t often get to the games, given his schedule, he still hits the ice when time permits.
George, whose eight sons all work in various family businesses, shows no signs of slowing down. “I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he says. “I feel the urge everyday to get out there and make things happen.”
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