Wendell Reno Van Heukelem, like many other WWII veterans, married his sweetheart, Eunice, in December, 1945, shortly after returning from his tour of duty in the Pacific. They settled in his hometown of Denver, CO, where he went to work delivering mail for the US Postal Service. However, as his family and subsequent expenses grew, he did some evening and weekend concrete flatwork jobs to supplement his income. He had apprenticed under a concrete contractor prior to his tour of duty, so this choice of supplemental income was a natural. By 1947-1948, Wendell was contracting enough concrete work to resign from his job as a mail carrier and go into construction work full time. With a pickup truck, a pick ax, some shovels, concrete finishing tools, and a wheelbarrow with steel wheels, he dubbed his business “Van the Cement Man” and went to work replacing sidewalks and installing backyard patios. Sometimes he worked alone, especially in those first years. Other times he would have a laborer or two helping him.
His success fluctuated with the ups and downs of the economy, but overall he not only made a decent income for his family, he also gained a reputation for being one of the best and honorable concrete contractors in the metro area. By the time he turned the business over to his son, Calvin, in 1979, he employed at least ten men, had multiple hand tools, several pickup trucks, trailers, and even a small tractor or two.
Wendell’s concrete legacy lives on through Colorado Hardscapes where his grandson, Vince, and granddaughter Karen continue in his footsteps.
We are thankful for his early visions, his faith which grew his family and company, his love, and his perseverance.