Dick Wilhelm, owner and general manager of the Wilhelm Monument Co., is proud to be descended from one of the Pikes Peak region’s pioneering families, which arrived here before Gen. William Palmer founded Colorado Springs during 1871.
Honoring this heritage, Wilhelm serves on the board of the city-owned Pioneers’ Museum.
Wilhelm, whose family-owned company has been carving stone in Colorado Springs for more than 60 years, recently took time to tell CSBJ about himself and his business.
Organization: Wilhelm Monument Co.
Position: Owner and general manager
Hometown: Colorado Springs
How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: My family homesteaded in the Calhan/Ramah area during 1870.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial relations and a master’s degree in management from Colorado State University at Fort Collins
A few words about your company: Wilhelm Monument Co. was founded during the late 1940s by Marie and Bud Wilhelm. WMC provides cemetery memorial remembrances, but our business is broadly diversified and has undertaken many commercial projects. Examples include: the granite flagpole base for Colorado College; the Purple Heart, Forward Air Controllers and Submariners memorials at Memorial Park; and the Soldiers’ Memorial at Fort Carson.
We’ve also executed neighborhood entrance and business signage, as well as address markers and bronze plaques.
Recent accomplishments: There are a lot of balls to juggle these days, and I feel pleased that I can still maintain a presence with some nonprofits that I truly enjoy supporting. But my golf game is in the tank.
Biggest career break: There have been two. My corporate life – when I was hired to be the director of organizational development for the Burlington Northern Holding Co. at a time of total corporate reorganization – an unbelievable education, and the opportunity to own and manage my own business when requested by my parents (because of their age and health) to return to Colorado Springs – to my home, my family and my family’s business.
The toughest part of your job: Letting go of my perceived need to be involved in every detail. It is tough in a closely held business to let others contribute to the level of their capability. The older and more tired I get, the smarter and more talented others are becoming … hmmm?
Someone you admire: Not someone in particular, but I admire people who are good listeners, and I believe this quality is a huge factor in life-long learning. I also admire those who tell it like it is, and not what they think you want to hear.
About your family: Judy and I have been married for 32 years, after dating for nine. She thinks we’re not good decision makers. Our son Rick, 27, and our daughter Libby, 24, are both University of Colorado graduates. Judy and I both graduated from CSU. Where did we go wrong … or right?
Something else you’d like to accomplish: I like to work. My goal is to keep excited, diligent and hopefully relevant as long as possible.
How your business will change during the next decade: Traditional memorialization (the family monument) might no longer be the standard. The future requires adapting to different tastes, needs, requirements and competitors if we intend to flourish. Sound anything like your business?
What book are you currently reading? “The Contested Plains – Indians, Goldseekers and the Rush to Colorado” by Elliott West.
What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? I often feel that Colorado Springs has become a collection of quite diverse neighborhoods. I anxiously await the results of those working on a vision for our future that creates an identity related to our rich heritage. I also hope that our growth is not just in size, but in the wisdom to proactively consider and manage the implications.