Remembering Fred Fehsenfeld

Fred Sr, the founder of The Heritage Group, was a man who always strove for innovation. At his core was a desire to solve problems for people, with a relentless drive for improvement. J-Band was developed from that same spirit of innovation, to solve one of the greatest problems facing roads and the driving public. Through this spirit, we at J-Band are proud to continually push toward improvement and a better world. Just as Fred Sr did.

FRED SR’s LIFE

Fred M. Fehsenfeld Sr. was born in Indianapolis on October 10, 1924 as the third of four boys born to Ruth and John Fehsenfeld. Their home was an active one, with all four boys participating in sports and music.

At 17, he enrolled as a mechanical engineering student at Purdue University. He also learned to fly while at school, taught by none other than Amelia Earhart. He recalled that Earhart “was a really unusual person… Of all the women aviators, she was the most well known, was an excellent aeronautical engineer at a time in history when we were just learning about flight and she did just damn near anything she wanted.”

US ARMY AIR CORPS

On his 18th birthday, Fehsenfeld enlisted in the US Army Air Corps to fight in World War II. After extensive training, he arrived in France with the 354th Pioneer Mustang Fighter Group. By the end of the war, Fehsenfeld flew a total of 89 missions.

He led the last official flight in the European theater, barrel-rolling over an Austrian POW camp to let his fellow soldiers below know the war had ended. He was awarded the Air Medal with three silver clusters and a silver star for his service.

Speaking about the war, Fehsenfeld said that it “was a wonderful opportunity to fly. Unfortunately, in our case, we had to show the Germans we could fly.” He also said he didn’t want to glorify his experience and believed that the “human race should find ways to settle differences other than this carnage”. About half the pilots Fehsenfeld served with were killed during the war.

FRED SR’s FAMILY

After the war was over, Fehsenfeld went back to Purdue. He married his college sweetheart (and fellow Boilermaker) Mildred “Midge” Cornelius and graduated two years later in 1948. Fehsenfeld and Midge would go on to have seven children together over the course of their marriage.

Fred’s wife Midge passed away in 2003, after 57 years of marriage. He later married Barbara Fehsenfeld. They were married for 15 years at the time of Fred’s death in 2019. Fred was a devoted husband, father, brother, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

FRED SR’s CAREER

Fehsenfeld began his career as a process engineer at Rock Island Refining. After a few years, he joined his father at Crystal Flash Petroleum. This company operated gas stations and sold home heating oil. They had about 100 employees when Fehsenfeld came on board.

Fehsenfeld quickly saw an opportunity to expand the family business into a new industry: asphalt. With no background in asphalt, Fehsenfeld went to his local library and taught himself how to manufacture asphalt. In 1960, he built his first asphalt facility- which is still in operation today.

Shortly after getting into the asphalt business, Fehsenfeld began acquiring aggregates. From there it only made sense to get into the paving business itself. The paving company he built would go on to become the largest paving contractor in Indiana.

HERITAGE RESEARCH CENTER

Not content to carry on with the status quo, Fehsenfeld developed the Heritage Research Center. Equipped with world class laboratory technology, this operation was set up to research and improve asphalt. Innovative new mix designs, paving techniques, and specialty products (including J-Band) have come out of this lab since its inception.

In 1972, The Heritage Group grew again, this time branching out into the sphere of environmental research. Industries this research touched included asphalt, agriculture, steel, technology, and more.

This collection of companies would grow into The Heritage Group that we have today. The Heritage Group consists of many companies that offer services in Transportation Infrastructure and Materials, Environmental Services, and Specialty Chemical and Fuel Products. It operates across North America, Europe, and China with an employee base of over 6,500 people. That’s quite a change from the 100 employees at Crystal Flash!

COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTIONS

Fehsenfeld wasn’t content to lead and innovate within the confines of his own company- he strove to create positive change in the asphalt industry at large. He loved to brainstorm solutions to nationwide challenges and served as the Chairman of the Asphalt Institute. He was also known to love a good debate and was a member of Junto for 50 years.

He was named a Sagamore of the Wabash three times by three different Indiana governors. At the time, this award was the highest honor that the Governor of Indiana could bestow on an individual.

In 2017, Governor Holcomb named I-865 the “Fred M. Fehsenfeld Sr. Highway” to honor Fehsenfeld for his many achievements and contributions to the state of Indiana. The road was recently repaved by a collaboration of Heritage Group companies, including Milestone Contractors, Illiana, Asphalt Materials Inc., and US Aggregates.

Upon Fehsenfeld’s death in 2018, Governor Eric Holcomb said, “Fred was a rare visionary leader, a revolutionary builder, who had a giant heart for our state and nation. His lifetime of service and philanthropy will continue to impact the lives of Hoosiers for the next 200 years”.

 

 

Fred Fehsenfeld was tenacious, patriotic, hardworking, and innovative. By his example he set a standard that is difficult to reach, but worth reaching for nonetheless.

 

 

 

SOURCES

Fehsenfeld, Fred Sr. Oral Histroy from Park Tudor http://ulib.iupuidigital.org/cdm/ref/collection/ParkTudorLI/id/38

Obiturary from Dignity Memorial https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/indianapolis-in/fred-fehsenfeld-8074620

I-865 named after Indianapolis veteran, businessman https://www.wishtv.com/news/i-865-named-after-indianapolis-veteran-businessman/

Heritage Group Founder & Industry Pioneer Fred Fehsenfeld Dies https://newsline.artba.org/2018/12/04/heritage-group-founder-industry-pioneer-fred-fehsenfeld-dies/

Zionsville resident receives veteran recognition https://www.timessentinel.com/news/local_news/zionsville-resident-receives-veteran-recognition/article_43d6eac2-dcb1-50e2-b91a-6acbedc1c004.html

Gov. Holcomb signs executive order naming I-865 after Hoosier veteran, businessman https://fox59.com/2017/10/11/gov-holcomb-signs-executive-order-naming-i-865-after-hoosier-veteran-businessman/

A conversation with … Fred Fehsenfeld, Sr. http://asphaltmagazine.com/a-conversation-with-fred-fehsenfeld-sr/

Heritage Group founder Fehsenfeld remembered as ‘revolutionary builder’ https://www.ibj.com/articles/71554-heritage-group-founder-fehsenfeld-remembered-as-revolutionary-builder

Holcomb Statement on Fred M. Fehsenfeld, Sr. https://calendar.in.gov/site/gov/event/3/

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