An Excerpt from the Book:
“I believe that the hardship Dad experienced in childhood
gave him the tenacity and perseverance necessary to succeed.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Don received his degree in Mechanical Engineering from Washington University in 1973, leading Spartan Light Metals in 1999. Spartan provides the design and manufacture of die-cast products and assemblies. Under his stewardship, the company has grown to three locations throughout Missouri and Illinois with revenues in excess of $200 million. Don’s goal is to retain his father’s values regardless of size.
Jubel translates to Joy in German. Despite many obstacles, Jubel sums up my family’s journey, from extreme poverty to a success greater than my father could have imagined. Ours is the Great American Immigrant success story that has been repeated over and over by many families.
My father Henry grew up in Post-World War I Germany in Brockau, a small town of about 500 people. With the depression and hyper-inflation of the 1920s, Dad was not always sure where his next meal was coming from. He and his brother would pick up the stray wheat that fell off the farmers’ wagons: dinner was typically fried salted bread. Even as a young boy, he recognized there were times when his mother skipped meals so he could eat. Despite this severe hardship, Henry retained his optimism and believed he could build a better life for himself.
When he was 10 years old, Henry came to America through Ellis Island, settling in Lemay, MO, where there was extended family. Dad had a strong work ethic and did well in school. The Principal of Bayless High School, Mrs. Bascom, recognized his abilities: in 1936 she petitioned Washington University to get my father admitted to the School of Mechanical Engineering and, just as importantly, got him a partial scholarship for the $250 tuition. Other costs were covered by Dad cutting grass on campus and translating books (and his parents taking jobs as well). Although Henry was proud of his German heritage, he always wanted to be considered an American – going to college at Washington University was part of that.
In 1941, Henry went to work for Sterling Aluminum Casting Company, which made custom permanent mold castings – first for the war effort and then for the automobile industry. He started out as a production engineer, eventually working his way up to Vice President. Catered lunches and a company car were a long way from wheat falling off of the back of wagons. But this did not feed his entrepreneurial spirit. In the late 1950s, there was a protracted labor strike that went on for a year; when customers started pulling their molds out of the company, Dad knew that Sterling’s days were numbered. And like most entrepreneurs, he saw an opportunity.
The company had some die-casting equipment, which was rarely used, but Henry recognized the future. He scraped together $50,000 (about $400,000 in 2015 dollars) from savings and multiple sources, purchasing these idle assets from Sterling. He found some cheap ground on 17 acres in Sparta, Illinois. In 1961, when Dad was 41 and I was 10 years old, Spartan Aluminum Products was born.
For the entire profile, click here