Editor’s note: James Steinhafel, former president of Steinhafels Furniture in Waukesha, died Monday, June 2, 2008, at the age of 90 from complications caused by a bladder infection. His son, Gary Steinhafel, the current president of the company, wrote the following blog as he reflected about his father. For additional information about the company, SBT recently featured Steinhafels as one of Milwaukee’s authentic companies.
Dad was a very successful family and business man. Although he balanced both, his true love was his family.
As a father, he mentored his six children daily, giving lessons on life and business at our family dinner table. He taught us the value of hard work and insisted we all received a great education.
My dad did not have the opportunity to attend college; rather he enlisted in the Coast Guard right out of high school and served our country during the end of World War II. During his service career, he was a successful amateur boxer. After the war, he joined his father in the furniture business.
Years later, dad was accepted into Harvard University and earned an executive MBA, reinforcing his value of the importance of education.
Dad was a self-made man who was street smart. He was a great salesman and story teller. He had a love for people and had many lifelong friends. He was also an amateur musician and supplemented his income after the war playing trumpet and drums with The Four Aces in Milwaukee.
Dad was also an avid outdoorsman. He loved to hunt and fish. He took up skiing in his late thirties and soon became a certified ski instructor at Alpine Valley so he could help others learn to ski.
He was also a volunteer coach for his three sons in baseball, basketball and football. Dad remained involved and proud of the accomplishments of his children and his 11 grandchildren. His son Gregg was recently announced as the chief executive officer of Target, making him a very proud father.
As a businessman, dad was a risk taker and team builder. Together with his two brothers (Bill and John) and two sisters (Elaine Birck and Mary Lucas), they built Steinhafels Furniture into a successful family business. Today, the company continues to grow and prosper because of the team efforts of the second generation.
Dad was president of the company until his retirement in 2003.
There will be a celebration of life reception at the Steinhafels corporate center in Waukesha on Friday, June 6, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, people should support their favorite local charities.
Gary Steinhafel is president of Steinhafels Inc. in Waukesha.