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  • William Horner

Remembering Bill Heeter

In 2013 the Arizona Contractor & Community magazine published a spread on Bill Heeter. Today would have been Bill’s 80th birthday. We share this passage with you.

Digging thru the archives – Four Great Impressions: The Bill Heeter Story

Bill Heeter by publisher William Horner

I met Bill Heeter after he had retired from many years working in the Arizona concrete industry. We discussed his early days at Superior Sand & Gravel, (Fisher Contracting), The Tanner Companies, and the many changes he experienced through the years. Bill was very knowledgeable and a humble man, gracious enough to share his stories and material with me. He was an early believer in our magazine and that meant a lot to me.

Bill Heeter by coworker Dave Arbo

I met Bill in 1985 after being hired at United Metro Materials as an engineer in their management training program. One of my first impressions of Bill was his vast network of friends, customers, and colleagues and how their lives seem to mesh together on and off the job. As I got to know Bill, I understood that there was much more to this man than his gregarious personality and his innate ability to build lasting relationships. Bill was a true gentleman who possessed impeccable integrity and loyalty. He was a kind soul who treated everyone with the utmost respect.

Through the years, Bill faced many challenges during his sales career and handled each situation with poise and fairness. He was a true leader who motivated and inspired his team of sales professionals to set records in the construction materials industry that have never been rivaled in the Phoenix market. I had the privilege of joining his sales team in 1997, handling aggregate sales for Kiewit Materials Company. Bill was the epitome of the caring mentor who would encourage and empower his subordinates to try fresh, creative ways to gain new business and build stronger customer relationships. He taught me that at the end of the day all you have is your word and reputation, and to conduct yourself with honesty and sound ethics in all situations in life.

Bill was fun to hang out with as he was like an adult kid who played as hard as he worked. Bill enjoyed four-wheeling, hunting, collecting classic cars, and restoring antique John Deere tractors. He was a consummate collector of guns, automotive memorabilia, Lionel trains, and loved to frequent swap meets, car meets, and antique shops. Bill was enthusiastic about his hobbies and usually involved customers in his numerous activities.

Bill was one of my best friends and the most positive influence in my life; I am a better person because of him. He lived his life with sound moral character and was an inspiration to everyone. I feel very fortunate to have known him and will always be thankful for our many wonderful years together. Bill was an icon in the concrete industry, and a gentle soul and loyal friend to those of us who knew him.

Bill Heeter by coworker Lonnie Holmes

I first met Bill in 1972 after transferring from the Construction Division of the Tanner Companies to United Metro. Bill, more than anyone else, made the company the largest supplier of concrete, sand and gravel, and asphalt in Arizona. Here are my favorite memories of Bill:

  • Bill’s word was his bond. Customers and employees trusted him 100 percent. Bill would always say, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

  • “Make your customers your friend and you will never have to worry about your job.”

  • Bill felt employees were the best salesmen, and drivers were the first -line sales people. Drivers knew if the customers were happy with their service, future jobs opportunities were possible.

  • Bill was an economist; if the market was slowing down he would increase jobs, sometimes at a lower profit in order to keep the employees working. Bill did this so when the market improved, he was ready to take advantage while the competition was struggling to get equipment and employees.

  • Bill set goals not only in sales volume, but in efficiency too. He measured yards per truck per day, yards per hour, load size, haul cost, and finding ways to reduce cost with new products, but always delivering a quality product.

  • Bill matched sales people with the customer. He believed in making customers your friend. If a customer had a hobby, he would find a salesman with similar interests. Whether it was classic cars or hiking he would take the time to find the right personal connection.

  • Bill was a team player. I never heard him say that someone worked for him; instead Bill would say we “work together.”

  • Bill was a serviceman and part time salesman. At times he had to convince his customers to pour very early in order to get better service. This was something new and Bill had to sell Dispatch and Management on the idea. It worked and he was rewarded with a promotion.

  • Bill helped many small customers grow into large companies. He would take them plans to bid on and find jobs for them. He earned their loyalty and trust. Bill said, “Make your customer successful and you will be successful.” He was right!

Bill was an icon in the industry. I will miss my friend and co-worker.

Bill Heeter by Connie Jones, his daughter:

What were some of Bill’s hobbies after retirement?

Dad collected trains, A-1 Beer art work, and vintage memorabilia such as a phone booth, barber pole, barber chair, and bicycles. Just recently he had purchased a 1949 Ford pick-up truck and also owned his grandfather’s (Homer Heeter) 1951 Chevrolet. His biggest passion in the last few years of his life was collecting vintage John Deere tractors which he proudly used at the CJ Ranch in Mayer, Arizona. For over 40 years, he went four-wheeling with the Sahauro 4X4 Club, which he helped found. He also loved hunting.

I know he collected Blakley auto memorabilia; did he ever work at any of the Blakley Service Stations?

Dad worked the Blakley’s Service Station at 35th Avenue and Van Buren from 1956-1957. He sold more tires, batteries, and oil than he made as an hourly wage…I guess that’s when his gift of sales blossomed.

Was he still involved with the concrete business after retirement?

Bill stayed in contact with as many concrete people as he could, visiting old customers, and having breakfast with industry leaders. My Dad should always be known for how he stayed in touch with his mentors that he met during his early years coming up in the concrete business. It didn’t matter whether they were co-workers, customers, or vendors, he would often visit them at home or even the hospital to keep them up to date on the industry. He always believed in paying it forward.

What were some of his jobs?

His first job was for Moe’s Food Fair at 35th Avenue and McDowell when he was 16 years old. He saved enough to buy his first car, a navy blue 1949 Ford coupe. After Blakely Oil he worked at Reynolds Aluminum in the Cast House. In 1958 he started work at Fisher Contracting in the dispatch department and worked there until they were sold to Tanner Contracting/United Metro Materials. He continued to serve as a Sales Manager until becoming Vice President in 1972. They were sold to Ashland Oil and he continued to sell and manage the sales department. Ashland sold the company to Peter Kiewit who in turn sold to Rinker Materials. He continued to work until the company was sold to Cemex and retired on May 5, 2009 after serving 53 years in the industry

Bill always put his customers first and had his finger on the pulse of the construction industry in Arizona. You could ask him about any cement plant, ready-mix plant, aggregate pit, etc., and he could tell you everything about it….he truly was “Mr. Concrete.”

Tell me about the famous Deer Valley breakfasts Bill had with his friends.

It began around 1985 as a way to keep everyone together. In this industry, people tend to move around so this was a good way for people to stay informed, keep abreast of new employment possibilities and prospective customers. It was a great forum and still happens with my Dad’s chair empty.

Any other info you would like share about Bill?

My father was born in Providence, Rhode Island on January 9, 1938 and his family moved to Phoenix in 1951. They lived in Alzona Park and Bill attended Isaac School and JB Sutton School. Dad served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve from 1955-1963 with the 9th Engineers Company as a Lance Corporal. My mom and dad were graduates of Phoenix Union High School in 1957. My dad never said a bad thing about anyone. He respected his competitors, he treated his co-workers like they were family, and he treated his friends like gold. He was the most loving and caring husband to our mother, Sharon Heeter, and he was the best father anyone could ever ask for. We respected him, we valued his opinion, we are so very proud of him but most of all we loved him and we miss him….

Bill is survived by his wife, Sharon, of 56 years, his son, Paul Heeter, who works for West Valley Rock, his daughter, Connie (Craig) Jones, who owns and operate CJS Enterprises LLC here in Phoenix and Lisa (Pat) Gillooly who resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

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