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July 8, 2013

While Joe served in the military, his wife, Meredith, lived with her folks in Bancroft, Iowa. Joe was able to get home once during his leave, and their second child, Melody, was born in July of 1952. Upon returning from active duty, Joe needed a job to support his growing family. When his brother Fred told him the office manager at the local hardware store was moving to California, Joe immediately wrote a letter asking the owners for work.

The local hardware store was Schwickert Hardware, which would later grow into a $40 million, 300-employee mechanical and roofing contracting company (see the story titled “Schwickerts: The First Client—and a Longtime Family Friend”). The owners, George and Leas Schwickert, had mixed feelings about Joe: Leas wanted to hire him, but George was concerned about Joe’s youth, especially when it came to the difficult—and delicate—task of collecting on past due accounts.

Joe was committed to making a job at Schwickert’s a reality. First, he signed up for the G.I. Bill so that half of his salary would be paid for by the government.

Then, he agreed to George’s idea of a test:

A customer owed money to the hardware store and George wanted to test Joe’s ability to collect. George told Joe he could either repossess the man’s chain saw or obtain payment for the outstanding balance.

So Joe drove to the man’s farm and observed him working in the field. When the moment was right, he sprang into action and immediately spotted the chain saw. As he picked up the cumbersome saw, he caught the attention of one the farm animals: a large German shepherd attack dog!

With the angry dog hot on his heels, Joe barely made it back to his car with the saw. When he returned to the hardware store, he proudly handed over the saw to George.

He was hired on the spot.

To be continued in Chapter 3…

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