by: Steven FechinoIf you are in this trade, you have mentors. Mentors are the people that have taught you valuable skills that enable you to make a fantastic living in this industry. We may not all be rich, but we build, create, breathe fresh air, and play with cool tools to provide for our families, which is fantastic for me.

I could discuss the resumes of the following individuals. However, a general statement of how they interact within the industry seemed more appropriate.

A few mentors that are not only personal to me, but hundreds of others are as follows:

Sam McGee sam mcgeeUnfortunately, we lost Sam several years ago, but Sam was an incredible visionary. I have spent time with Sam, showing him how to lay brick in Kansas City VICA competition (before the name changed) and what a good sport he was, working on the NCCER manuals and participating in the National Masonry Instructors Association (NCCER). As Sam became older, he was so proud of the men and women that were part of his company and how well they were able to provide for their families. Sam will forever be a friend to so many.

Jerry Painter
jerry painterIf you ever get to say hello to Jerry, just do! He is friendly and knowledgeable about so many of our trade’s procedures and practices. Jerry is a consultant for the MCAA and is very active with ASTM. Jerry is a good source for “I wonder if this has ever happened to anyone else” type questions, because, if it has happened, Jerry has worked through it a time or two.

Bryan Lightbryan lightBrian Light is a gentleman craftsman to the finest degree. Brian has served this industry for over 40 years and talks the talk and walks the walk. Brian has journeyman skills like no other and is as humble about it as he can be. Brian once said that he has never cut brick with a trowel, that is what a saw is for. Brian, you are fantastic!

Brian CarneyBrian and I met in the mid-1990s at a meeting in Kansas City for the VICA event. Brian quickly led the pack with his work ethic and vision to see that he could make something like bricklaying an exciting event that folks would come from far to see. The birth of the Bricklayer 500 was due to the creative efforts of Brian and the Spec Mix team. Today Brian leads the march with, yet another incredible event planned that will amaze and entertain both journeymen and attendees.

Bob ArnoldBob is sort of quiet but is a master when it comes to imagining what can be done with masonry and constructing it. Every year at the World of Concrete, Bob and his team build cantilever, decorative, colored, and even walls that appear to fail, which are all so impressive on the Masonry Lot. Many journeymen across the country can thank Bob for being part of their apprentice and careers from the training expertise that he can lend.

Mike Suttermike sutterMike Sutter is another person that you should stop and say hello to, as he is a genuine and nice person that has demonstrated that with masonry knowledge, skill, and a lot of hard work, you can be successful in this industry. Mike was the Rules Judge for the Fastest Trowel Competition that I worked on for almost 10 years, and his ability to interact with folks in our trade is impressive, something I bet most of us try to copy.

Milton Young & Moremilton youngEugene Johnson second from left, Alonza “AC” Lewis far right

Milton, Curtis Hoover, Eugene Johnson, Ham, and Alonza Lewis all need to be mentioned together. As the founders of the National Masonry Instructors Association, these gentlemen have provided in-class instruction to thousands of young masonry hopefuls. Anyone that has participated in any National Skills USA, VICA, Skills Challenge, or in many cases, local or regional apprentice competitions have run into at least one or all of these gentlemen at the judging level. These are the guys who have dedicated their lives to training and teaching. Thank you, gentlemen.