A tribute to Louis Dinkel, our founder and friend
Louis Dinkel, born in Long Prairie, Minnesota, April 21, 1925, passed away on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1999. We pay tribute to this incredible man who founded this company in 1963. If you heard that he started the company from the trunk of his car, you haven’t heard it from the beginning. He actually started with just one terminal block in his pocket. He built a great company which has expanded to include branches across the country; employing several hundred people. He passes on a legacy to more than a generation who bear his name; he has provided a model for many more who will never forget the most gracious, honest, kind and gentle man they have ever known. He wasn’t just respected by the employees he led, but truly loved by them. He was successful at building his company by building up the people he hired; empowering and encouraging them to do their best. Many people have said, I can still hear him say as he did each time he left the office, ‘you’re in charge.’ Louie did more than manage people. He showed you by his own example. One employee was reminded of the first time he met Louie. Everyone was stocking the shelves with product. I asked, ‘where is Mr. Dinkel, I have not met him yet?’ And someone replied ‘you mean Louie? He’s up there,’ pointing to the older gentleman up on the ladder stocking shelves with the rest of them. He would roll up his sleeves and do what ever job needed to be done. He and his wife, Fern, traveled the country in their trademark R.V. to visit all the company locations, not as an overseer would, but to get to know everyone. He was so gracious, patient and forgiving. I remember making mistakes; one in particular that was rather costly, said one employee. I thought for sure I deserved to be fired, but Louie just said ‘if you don’t make any mistakes, you’re not doing anything.’ He could lift you up and give you the confidence to try again and succeed. Louie’s reputation for being fair and honest always went before him. When Louie shook your hand on an agreement, you knew with confidence that he would keep his word; no written contract was more secure, said Joe Campisi, long time business associate and personal friend. Louie cared about people and took time to meet with you and get to know you, personally, said Bill Klingner, business associate and friend for over ten years. There is little doubt what made him so successful and so loved. He approached his business relationships with the same high standards as his personal relationships.

Louie loved to play golf. He shared that pasttime with customers, vendors and employees alike. One employee remembers playing with Louie at a rather exclusive country club. She did not play well and was intimidated at first. But when the ball dribbled off the first tee, with irritated onlookers, Louie picked up the golf ball and threw it as far as he could. He had a great sense of humor and he knew just how to make me laugh and feel better, she said.

Louie loved people, loved his family and had tremendous, unshakable faith in God. He believed in miracles, many remembered. He talked about several miracles in his own life. One time when he and Fern were traveling back to Minneapolis from the southeastern United States, their R.V. was overheating. Still far from home, after several stops and attempts to fix the problem, Louie was quite concerned. Then a very rickety old pick-up truck pulled up behind them at the filling station where Louie was dumping gallons of water in to give it a few more miles. An equally weathered man got out to talk to Louie. He told Louie ‘not to worry, that he would make it home safe.’ When Louie looked around again to thank him for his comforting words, the old man was gone. Louie knew it was not coincidence that they made it back to Minneapolis without the R.V. overheating again.

Louie was not motivated to acquire more for himself, but felt very blessed and motivated to use what he had to help others, said Jack Warweg, personal friend and financial advisor for 25 years. He learned my grandson would need several years of therapy following a long battle with leukemia that would cost $24,000 a year. Without hesitation, Louie said ‘I’ll take care of it.’ As it turned out, our insurance covered the treatments, but Louie was the first to step up to help whenever he could. His generosity was not reserved for those near and dear to him. People didn’t have to ask for help. Louie sought out the needy. One year, while helping Jack price Christmas trees for the Lion’s Club, Louie overheard some strangers talking about a financial need for medical treatment. He found out who they were so that he could give them the money they needed. The Catholic Church and school were among Louie’s most loved beneficiaries. But his joy was not just in the giving of financial resources. He really loved helping where there was great need. He bought a house for the Sisters of St. Joseph’s in St. Paul, MN to set up as a family center for troubled youth. And when the Catholic school in his home town needed serious repair and renovation, Louie raised up the challenge to others and matched funds to help restore the school. Louie never sought the credit for his gifts, commented Jack. He was certainly the most generous, humble and gracious man I have ever known.

Louie was blessed with five children, 17 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. He touched the lives of so many who knew him and loved him. He will be sincerely missed by countless people who called him friend.