Editor’s Note: In honor of this year’s Loberg Day festivities, celebrating our late founder and the values he held dear, one of Tom Loberg’s children, Judith Loberg shared her thoughts about her father and his legacy.
Talk about Tom as a father.
It seemed like he was always working. Sometimes he would come home after we all had gone to bed and had already gone to work by the time we got up to go to school. Once he invented a valve while he was working at Allis-Chalmers. It was used on ship steam turbine engines during World War II and allowed the engine to run more efficiently. So, after his day job he would come home and build these valves in the basement.
When he was home, he was working repairing the house, or building a new stereo from things he had in the basement. When he remodeled our 100-year house, we all pitched in, and learned it can be fun to work hard while working as a family.
I remember missing school once because of being in the hospital, Dad helped me get caught up on my schoolwork. It was fun and memorable spending time with him and learning from him.
Every Sunday and Wednesday evenings our family spent time in church. As a family we would sing hymns and camp songs while we worked. And of course, we all thought we were funny, so we laughed a lot.
Mom and Dad taught us there were always consequences for our actions, and you have to live with them. So, we learned to do the right thing from the beginning. Dad and Mom were partners when raising kids, both very strict but loving, and were good examples of being kind to others, honest to default.
What did your family like to do for fun?
We liked traveling and spending time outdoors. We would go camping in parks in Wisconsin and travel to other states with Dad setting up a tent every night. On one trip, (we were always in an old car) we would have to stop and dad would patch the tire, or one time, one of the back car doors fell off. Dad didn’t let anything stop him, he just tied the door back on, and we kept going. He liked the adventure, and always liked a challenge.
What are some of your favorite memories of Tom and your family?
There are a couple of good stories about Dad.
We were all at the lake house with Eleanor and Lester Jarlsberg and their family eating.* Eleanor was sitting across from Dad, and he went to get a pickle out of a jar. The pickle slipped out and landed in her coffee cup. Dad didn’t mention it to Eleanor, so she just continued to drink her coffee. Dad just sat and grinned. She asked why he was grinning, and he never told her. When she got closer to the end of her cup, she saw the pickle. Then, she knew why he was smiling, and she flipped the pickle out of her cup at Dad. We all got a big laugh over that one.
At the lake house, Dad put in a hot water heater. When the house was given to us, it didn’t have an indoor toilet or running water, so he had been making improvements. He had already installed a toilet and water to the sink. Now he had just installed the hot water heater, a big deal in northern Wisconsin! He called all of us together for the lighting of the water heater. When he lit it, there was a big flash, and it knocked him on his back a few feet from the water heater. He was ok, but a little singed. And we then had HOT water!
What motivated Tom as an entrepreneur?
Dad did not like to be confined or to be limited in what he could do. He was always trying to improve something or figure out how it worked. He would carry a mechanical pencil and 3×5 index cards in his shirt pocket at all times, in case he had an idea that he wanted to get down on paper. He had a curious mind and wanted to learn about everything and anything. He would say, “You can always learn something from anybody you meet.”
He designed a lift for our boat at the lake, and not long before he died, he rigged up his closet where he could change out his clothes from summer to winter and back by pushing a button.
What are some of your earliest memories of Hytrol?
I remember the Hytrol Christmas Party. It was held inside the shop, and there were conveyors set up to move the food up and down the table. The conveyors had loops on the ends, so if you missed what you wanted, you had to wait for it to come back around. They set up a conveyor that had wooden boxes on it. They put the little kids in the boxes, and they got a ride on the conveyor.
Whenever Dad had to take care of his kids, he would take us to the “shop” and give us a penny for every soda bottle we brought to him – the original recycling effort.
What do you think Tom would most be proud of today, seeing Hytrol in 2019?
He would be very proud of how much it had grown, and would be fascinated with the lean program, and the use of so many computers. Dad was fascinated with anything new and wanted to understand how it worked.
I think he would love the robots. He would love to watch them and want to learn how they worked. I also think he would love the R&D and the virtual things that are coming down the pipe line.
*Lester Jarlsberg asked Tom to build his first conveyor. It is now affectionately known as Old No. 1 and can be found in the Leone Training Room.