Odds & Ends

Correspondence

From the February 2013 issue

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I have been a subscriber to your excellent magazine for years. Recently I received a copy from the efficient folks at the Post Office with an extra cover saying that this would be my last issue. (I used to buy AmSpec at the bookstore because the union thugs at the P.O. kept tearing the covers or losing the issues. After notifying the Postmaster, the abuse stopped.)

I checked my account and it is not even close to expired. So I checked the name on the cover, Gerald W. Oliver, to contact him to see if he had my issue, or none at all—a terrible fate, as I had already read, coffee-stained, and dog-eared his.

His phone was disconnected but I found the following obituary in our local “Progressive” rag:

TRAVERSE CITY—Gerald W. “Jerry” Oliver, 85, of Traverse City, passed away Sunday, May 29, 2011.

He was born on Oct. 11, 1925, in Jackson, the second son of Harry E. Oliver, of North Dorchester, Ontario, Canada, and Elizabeth Wines, of Howell. The family moved to Traverse City in 1937, and Jerry graduated from Traverse City High School with the class of 1942.

A veteran of World War II, he enlisted in both the Canadian RCAF and the United States Army Air Corps.

After discharge he enrolled in Alma College and graduated with the class of 1949.

On Dec. 9, 1950, he was married to Jane Ann Zimmerman, who in his words was, “The classiest woman in the world.” Jane Ann was also a veteran of World War II, having served in the Women's Army Corps.

Jerry spent his entire life in the construction industry, starting as a “Go-For” and timekeeper for a Detroit contractor during the summer of 1938 at the age of 13. One of his personal highlights was that he worked on the North Approach causeway to the future Mackinaw Bridge in 1942 at the age of 17. Lawrence Rubin, the first executive secretary of the Mackinaw Bridge Authority, met with Jerry in 2005 and told him, “Oliver, you are in all probability the last of the first to work on the Big Mac.”

During the 1950s he was involved in building Early Warning (Dew Line) radar site housing and supporting facilities across the Northern and Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 1960 he studied under Professor Rip Radcliff at the University of Nebraska. Professor Rip Radcliff was instrumental in the development of C.P.M. (Critical Path Method) used by the U.S. Air Force in management of construction on its underground missile sites in the U.S. and Europe, and P.E.R.T. (Project Evaluation and Reporting Techniques) used by the U.S. Navy on its installations worldwide. These programs were refined management tools developed and used in the pre-personal computer days. Oliver adapted these systems for his foreman to help building projects for the Department of Interior for housing on Mid-West and Western Indian Reservations. He later used this management tool in teaching for the University of Michigan in its Out-State Real Estate and Building Programs.

In 1972 he was elected president of the Michigan Contractors and Suppliers Associations while serving as the Northern Michigan Chapter President. In 1973 and 1974 he was awarded the “Richard J. Hooker Memorial Award” as Michigan Contractor of the Year. He was also elected to serve on the Executive Committee of ABC National, the “Merit Shop” method of construction, located in Baltimore, Md. ABC was not a “Preserve the Status Quo” trade association, but rather a crusade to reverse the abuse that the Building Trades Union and their contractors had foisted on the American Consumer. While union wages were outrageous, it was the “feather-bedding“ and preclusion of entry opportunities to poor and disadvantaged workers that was unacceptable. The union responses to ABC in many locations nationwide, including, Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Kalkaska in Michigan alone, was violence along with other illegal attempts to stop this reform movement. During his involvement, the 70-30 percent union share of construction market reversed. This conservative reform has brought competition to the nation's largest industry. He was proud of his contributions to this cause.

In 1976 in Boston, Mass., he was elected national president of ABC, representing over 18,000 construction firms with chapters in 48 states. During his term as president, he was responsible for moving the national headquarters to Washington, D.C. and taking part in testifying before the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate Committees that led to the defeat of “Common Situs“ Legislation and reform of the “Davies-Bacon Act” regulations that affected wage rate determinations.

One of the outstanding moments in Jerry’s life occurred in the spring of 1976 on a private jet flight from Washington to Detroit when the only other passenger was Ronald Reagan, then running the Republican Presidential nomination. He always referred to this as “My hour along with Ronald Reagan—in Consul at 35,000 feet.” He became a great supporter and fan of the future 39th President of the United States.

For the past 30 years he was engaged in real estate development as well as building custom and multifamily homes, motels and condos throughout Northwestern and Upper Michigan as owner of Zimmerman Construction Company. He was also involved in fiber-optic site work and building for AT&T.

Once at a speakers forum on construction associations being held in New Orleans, Jerry was asked what qualifications and preparations he had found helpful during his involvement with ABC. He thought for only a few seconds before replying, “I have always been lucky and blessed. People have always helped me. Talking and speaking came easy, a gift from God. People are the difference. Life for me has been a marvelous and rewarding experience. I am indebted to so many people for the direction and advice they have so freely given. My advice to you is to seek out these people and let them help you; you will both be rewarded.” This remained his creed.

I am honored to be in the same American literary company as Jerry, and look forward to many happy discussions in the afterlife with him.

Still don’t know who got my issue...

Tom Cutsinger
Traverse City, MI  

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