Presentation of the Outstanding Woman in Business Award
as accepted by
Independent Women's Forum 2017 Annual Awards Gala
November 15, 2017
Maybe. Thank you, Paul. Thank you, Mr. Ryan. Don’t we all love him? He’s a wonderful man. He’s a great American, a great American.
He forgot something on my bio, though. I arrived in Washington today at 4:30 – I just got off a bear hunt. I was practicing my Second Amendment rights. I got my bear, too. About 35 feet, in a tree, dogs ran him, I crawled on my belly for 300 yards, was in the woods for like two or three hours, and he’s 410, about – he’s big. Big bear. I was the only person that got a bear. The other 16 men didn’t. Sorry! But that’s just the way hunting goes, so – I’m going to be quick here.
There’s so many wonderful speakers here. My life is just kind of crazy. I was born on a farm in Mondovi, Wisconsin. I like to call it Mond-ah-vi, it’s kind of cool, but it was Mondovi. And I was raised with eight sisters. I’m one of nine girls. My father is absolutely the man that I think formed my foundation, and there was two things that I took out of my childhood that I try to sum it in to what really was it about my dad, is that he really believed in the community and he believed in his family. I was raised around a dinner table, and I followed my dad around the farm, and I learned by watching somebody work hard and have respect for everybody in the community, but when we sat down at that dinner table, all of us, and I got to sit right next to my dad, because you have a place that you sat at the table.
I would learn, and we would talk about everything that went on in our lives. Now, a little bit of humor in my dining room table, I didn’t know at the time because I didn’t understand politics then, but I did as I got older, is that my parents were both Democrats. And I have never voted Democratic in my life. But he was a wonderful, wonderful man that – his expectations of me – and I had a wonderful mother, too, but I spent more time outside with my father. As you could see, bear hunting isn’t exactly a real feminine sport, but I love being out of doors. And he put pride in me and respect, and he became my mentor. And he really was a wonderful guy. He was the town chairman, I mean we’re talking 50, 60 years ago. So, good to learn from a person like that.
So, with those kind of values, learning right from wrong at an early age, it was the basis for how I grew up. I got married very young. I got pregnant. It happened not very often back there, and I did the right thing. I married my son’s father. But it was a short marriage, but we got married, because it was the right thing to do to raise a child. And he actually ended up being a great husband for his next wife. And he was also a very good father to my son.
I married a couple of years later and I married the love of my life, Ken. Ken had four children, I had one, and about eight years later we had two more. He finally goes, "I’d like to see what ours would look like" – kind of like the curiosity kids – we’re really going to have children to see what they look like? But we did. And we had two more daughters, so we had The Brady Bunch.
I did what I had learned and I built our life around that dining room table. That’s where I learned all about whatever was going on in my children’s lives. We didn’t’ eat until we were there, everybody sat down.
On weekends we worked outside and the kids had to be there. The kids had chores. We spent our time together. We never went out after work. We came home, we had dinner with our kids.
There’s something really missing in society today, and I really think a lot of it has to do with the fact that so many children are being born without a father in their life. It’s just very sad.
I have this saying that I believe that we could change so many of the problems of our nation if every child had two parents in their life, one God, one flag. And I believe it would really improve everything, so I kind of go with that saying all the time, two parents, one God, one flag.
Times have changed. It’s just different out there right now, and I am doing everything I can back in Beloit.
And yes, I believe in economic development. They call it philanthropy when I buy a building, but I don’t buy a building to buy a building. I buy a building to put people in it, to give them careers and jobs. And we have attracted so many people to Beloit, Wisconsin.
When you really start to have a passion for something and you see the results, it breeds on everybody. It’s not just me, Paul, thanks for saying I built Beloit, but when you do one thing everybody else starts to work at it and they see it. And Beloit is a great community that works together. And it’s just a wonderful area. Janesville is also beautiful – I lived in Janesville for 35 years. I raised my children there. Five of my seven children live there, and Beloit is only 15 miles away. And I live now in the middle of them, but I love what I’m doing.
I’m still very engaged in my businesses. There’s just so many great people that work for all of our companies. We’ve got 18 companies, so it’s not just the ABC with 14, we’ve got 14,000 people. We’ve got 4,000 in startup companies.
Some think I’m crazy. I’m 70 years old. What am I doing? I don’t know. I’m having fun. I’m having fun. But, I come back to my dad all the time, because I think the father figure in a house is so important. He really expected that I would marry a farmer, and I really didn’t want to marry a farmer. I really wanted to go to the city, I wanted to be in business, and that’s where I ended up.
But, at the same time, my dad never told me I shouldn’t. He always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do. And I think that that’s something that, again, a father figure can give to a daughter. He didn’t treat me like I had to be taken care of. He treated me as a person that had the ability to do anything I wanted to do. And years later, I know that at times I was his favorite, because he loved to sit down and talk politics, and talk to me about how and why we were doing the things that we were doing. And he would be really proud to be here and to see what I’ve accomplished. He’s been gone for 12 years, Ken’s been gone for 10, my husband, and my mom 8 years.
My parents were a big part of my life and it’s just a blessing that I had them. I hope my children appreciate that they’ve got two of each, except for the two younger ones.
I want to close by talking about one other thing, I tried to reach for goals. I reached high. And that’s something that I knew I had the ability to do, because I was going to do that. I reached for the stars. I took calculated risks, I still do. I persevere. I’ve never quit anything. I just don’t believe in quitting. And that’s something that – so many people quit right before they win.
So, I stand here today looking at all of you. Just great Americans. What better place could you be than in the midst of everybody here? This is great.
I just want to thank you, Heather, for recommending me for this honor. I truly – I thank you. Really. You make me proud. Thank you. Thank you.
I’ve worked hard, I’ve been blessed, and I know it’s possible to live the American dream. The journey that I took was down a country road. I thanks everybody that helped me get here, the banks, the community, my friends and my family, because people give and helped me along. Nobody does anything alone, so I thank my family. There they are. I’ve got five of my seven here tonight. I thank my friends that are here. To my children, you are still my proudest accomplishment. Thank you. God bless you all. Be happy and pursue your dreams. Love you all. Thank you.