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Going to Work at a Job He Loves

In the grand scheme of things, most people decide to work during their adult life at something, whether it’s indoor or outdoor, and after a number of years, retire.
That works for most, but not all, including Bill Roewe, now 92, president of Missouri Pipe Fittings Co., who continues to work four days a week.

About six months ago, he decided to take off Wednesdays to play pinochle, say the rosary and attend a luncheon at the Colonnade, the senior retirement facility where he and Wanda — Dave to everyone who knows them — live. She is his bride of 67 years.

The luncheon brings together the Catholic Community at the Colonnade for lunch, Dave said. She saw a good number of people living there who belong to St. Nicholas Parish in O’Fallon. Some Bill and Dave had known for years.

Dave ties a reminder card on the doorknobs of the members of the Catholic Community so they won’t forget the luncheon. The couple moved into the retirement community a year ago, and they love it. They both have their cars at the facility, but Dave appreciates no longer needing to cook their meals, and both say the staff couldn’t be more “congenial.”
Asked if Dave worries about Bill driving over to work almost every day. “No,” she said, “and I think the kids would worry if he didn’t come.”

Three of the Roewes four children and two grandchildren work at the company.

On the days he goes to work, Bill walks at the mall in Fairview Heights. He began his daily walks soon after the mall opened, more than 20 years ago. He knows his fellow walkers by first name, and they know Bill. He brings doughnuts to share on Friday mornings. He also takes doughnuts to his employees in the office and in the plant where the pipe fittings are manufactured.

Bill began working at the company in December 1952 when Mark Eagleton owned the company. Eagleton, an attorney in St. Louis, is the father of  Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton.
Mark Eagleton had received the company as payment, but he wasn’t familiar with pipe fittings.

Bill, who had worked since he was 12 at various jobs, including an usher at the Roxy Theater in East St. Louis, graduated with a degree in accounting from St. Louis University.
In 1952, Bill and Dave had two “babies,” a good job when he decided to answer an ad in the paper. Dave wasn’t quite sure about this new undertaking, but Bill decided to give it a try.
After two weeks on the job, Bill said he received a Christmas bonus. “I thought I’d stick around for awhile,” he said.  Years later, he bought the company and has, with his two daughters and son working in the office, expanded the company and taken on more projects.

Some years have been difficult, but Bill said he has never laid off an employee. “You can always find something for someone to do,” he said.

These days, Bill describes his role as a consultant with his son, Dan, vice president and general manager, running the company. “It’s a family company,” he said. And he treats the employees in the plant as family. His employees respond to him in kind.

In fact, a former employee who had retired from the company after about 30 years of work, died recently. His wife said one of the man’s last requests was that she notify Bill about his death. That doesn’t seem unusual until you find out he hasn’t worked in the plant for 20-25 years.

Bill said his faith informs his life and has from the beginning. He and Dave develop relationships with others, drawing them into the community, whether it is the employees at Missouri Pipe Fittings Co., or the people who live at the Colonnade.

Asked when he might retire, Bill said: “I’m kind of unusual” in thinking about retirement. If I like and enjoy it it’s hard to give up. Besides, how many people can go to work and see his son, two daughters and two grandsons?”

Bill is enthusiastic about the future of his company. With innovation, different products and the positive economy, he said he has “great optimism.”
He has been a hard worker and a determined man all his life, even in courting his wife. “I had to ask her out three times before she agreed to go,” he said, and smiled.

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