The Mason Contractors Association of America inducted Bill Dentinger into the Masonry Hall of Fame, on Thursday Feb. 5 at the MCAA Convention during the World of Concrete/World of Masonry in Las Vegas.
Bill Dentinger chose masonry as a career while he was still in high school. During the summers he had been a mason tender for his uncle. It was hard work, but it paid good wages, and allowed him to attend a private Jesuit College Prep High School. His uncle, a master bricklayer, loved being in the field, but did not relish the office part of being in business.
Bill said, “Hey! I can do that.” His uncle said, “I think you can too, but you are still too young for people to take you serious.” In the 1950s young men still had a military obligation to fulfill, so he decided to get that out of the way and grow a little older. In September of 1957 he joined the United States Navy and told his Uncle, “I’ll see you in four years!”
In the Navy he displayed some natural leadership qualities and was made Master at Arms in his Boot Camp Company.He was a Second Class Petty Officer (Pay Grade E5) within two years, and was selected to serve both CNABATRA and COMCRULANT (Admiral’s Staffs) during his four year active duty tour. At the end of his tour, the Navy encouraged him to become a ‘Mustang’ (Commissioned Officer) and make the Navy a career. But Bill, his wife Shirley, and a new daughter, Peggy, were eager to get back to Milwaukee and that career in masonry. For four years, every month or so, Dentinger had written his uncle, reminding him that he wanted to join him in the business and help run things. His uncle, Rich Kemp, had not forgotten the plan. He and Superior Masonry Builders were waiting for Dentinger, and this was the beginning of Dentinger's 50 year career of working in, and serving, the masonry industry.
At this time, Superior Masonry Builders was a single crew operation (about eight people). Their work was mostly residential. Building natural fireplaces was a specialty, and every summer they hoped to have one light commercial job to help make their year. Early on Bill worked in the field as a mason tender and did the company’s ‘paper work’ at night. Uncle Rich ran the field and estimated and Bill managed the other aspects of the business. Very quickly Superior Masonry Builders grew to become one of two or three significant masonry operations in the Milwaukee area. Their specialties changed from residential to commercial, industrial, and institutional masonry work. They built schools and churches.
Teddy Roosevelt said that a businessman owes a portion of his time and money to the industry that employs him. Thus is a duty or responsibility to create order and help administer things. Bill bought into that theory very early. First he accepted the responsibility, but also he recognized that there was much to be learned from working with the other industry leaders once you became active. That was rewarding.
Superior Masonry Builders, Inc. joined the Mason Contractors Association of Milwaukee (MCA-Milwaukee) in the early 1960s. Bill became very active and was mentored by people like Gregor Pichler and Bob Tubesing, both of whom were Charter Members of the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA). By 1966 he was President of MCA-Milwaukee. He served that association in a myriad of positions from 1964 until he retired in 2006. He was also very active in the Allied Construction Employer’s Association (ACEA), serving on their Board of Directors for decades. He was Chairman of their Laborer’s Basic Bargaining Committee from 1966 until 2006. He served as a Management Trustee of the Building Trades United Pension Trust Fund for Milwaukee and Vicinity (BTUPTF), and in fact logged more years in that position than any other management trustee. Bill also served on the Board of the Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee (AGC-Milwaukee) as their Sub-contractor Liaison.
In 1975 Bill left Superior Masonry. Rich Kemp had two sons coming of age and both were eager to join the family business, which would require more volume and a much bigger company, something his uncle was not interested in pursuing. Bill left to make some room. He and his wife started their own masonry business, Bill Dentinger, Inc. Early on it was tough for a young, under-financed company to remain active in industry administration at the level he was involved, but Bill still accepted the responsibility, found a way, and continued to serve on a multitude of levels and with countless masonry and construction industry groups.
His efforts to help manage the construction industry were not limited to the Milwaukee area. For several decades he was very active in the MCAA, serving on and acting as Chair of many committees. For about eight years he served as an officer, ending up as the MCAA President in the mid-1980s. As such, he also served as the Co-Chairman of the International Masonry Institute. His tenure as MCAA president coincided with a period of substantial friction for the association. While the country attempted to gain footing after a deep recession, the masonry industry was facing plenty of challenges. This was complicated further within the MCAA as the association was struggling with a division of ideas in regard to allowing both union, and non-union contractors as members. Bill Dentinger’s personality, as well as the respect and trust he earned from years of service to the industry helped ensure the MCAA was able to weather this period of structural change within the association.
Bill Dentinger believed in that famous quote by President Theodore Roosevelt. Again, it says each of us, owes part of our time and money to the business or industry in which we are engaged. He believed that, and acted accordingly during his entire career.
About the Masonry Hall of Fame
The Masonry Hall of Fame was created to recognize and award those individuals who have dedicated their lives to the masonry industry. Each year, nominations are accepted to recognize individuals who have had a major impact on the masonry industry, not necessarily with just the MCAA, and have been in the industry for a minimum of 25 years. All inductees are nominated by their peers and carefully reviewed by a panel of judges. Nominees must receive six of eight eligible votes in order to be accepted into the Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is held during the Closing Banquet of the MCAA Convention at the World of Concrete/World of Masonry in Las Vegas. Please visit www.masoncontractors.org/hall-of-fame for additional information and a full list of Masonry Hall of Fame members.
About the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
The Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) is the national trade association representing mason contractors. The MCAA is committed to preserving and promoting the masonry industry by providing continuing education, advocating fair codes and standards, fostering a safe work environment, recruiting future manpower, and marketing the benefits of masonry materials. For more information, visit www.masoncontractors.org.