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THE A'MERC'N FAMILY: Generations of employees bring kinship to Fond du Lac company

Mar. 18, 2014
 
Members of the Mathers family (three generations) are working at or retired from Mercury Marine. From left are: Randy Mathers, his father Scott Mathers, and Scott's parents, Ruth and Wayne Mathers.
Members of the Mathers family (three generations) are working at or retired from Mercury Marine. From left are: Randy Mathers, his father Scott Mathers, and Scott's parents, Ruth and Wayne Mathers. / Patrick Flood/Action Reporter Media
The Miller family, from left Karen Miller, Karl Miller and their son Steve Miller in the late 1970s after a move to Belgium through Karl's work with Mercury Marine. / Submitted photo

Mercury Marine: 75 years and counting

Today, Action Reporter Media continues a series of stories taking a look at Mercury Marine, its role in the marine motor industry and, closer to home, its impact and role in Fond du Lac and on its residents.
The stories will run throughout the year in concert with the celebration of Mercury’s 75 years in business.
If you have a story to tell about Mercury Marine, a memory or memorabilia to share related to the company, email The Reporter Editor Peggy Breister at pbreister@fdlreporter.com (indicate Mercury Marine in the subject line). We may incorporate your story or items in future stories. If you need further information, contact Breister at (920) 907-7912.

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Generations of families have worked within the walls of the mile-long factory located prominently along Highway 41 in Fond du Lac.

From employees on factory assembly lines to machinists to high-level executives, for decades Mercury Marine has provided a local livelihood as the largest manufacturer of marine propulsion engines in the world.

Hired at Mercury in the 1960s, 71-year-old John Delap of Fond du Lac worked in furnace maintenance in Plant 17, a casting facility that housed diecast machines. He set a precedent by becoming the first welder to be certified at Mercury Marine.

“I loved the job, but got tired of training new people when we had layoffs, which was often,” he said. “So I went after management to get people who were certified and I myself went to Madison for training.”

DeLap was responsible for upkeep of the large furnaces used to melt aluminum. Each diecast machine has its own furnace, he said.

“It was a good living, so I made it my career for 37 years. There’s a lot of people in the community who know me because of my work there,” he said.

In the blood

Scott Mathers, 57, is among three generations of the Mathers family at Merc. He works in the testing area and inspects V8 engines.

“What I like about being here are the challenges presented, learning new things, new engine products,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

The family patriarch, Wayne Mathers, retired from Mercury in the late 1970s. His wife, Ruth Mathers, is also retired from the company.

Hired right out of high school, Scott Mathers is now in his 38th year at Merc. With additional schooling he learned how to operate and program CNC machines. When he was called back from a layoff in 1992, he ended up on first shift in assembly.

“Engines are in my blood. My brothers are mechanics and all of us grew up working on cars,” he said.

His son, 21-year-old Randy Mathers, followed in his father’s footsteps. He saw it as a great opportunity after high school graduation. Mathers is employed as an assembly technician on the V6 Optimax line.

“It’s a pretty decent-paced job and I get along with the people there,” he said. “Like my dad, I was always into mechanical things ... fast cars, snowmobiles — anything.”

'Mr. International'

As the son of Mercury’s former vice president of international business, Steve Miller recalls a colorful childhood and a few years living in Belgium, dinner parties at his parent’s house with guests from other countries and spending lots of time “on the water.”

His father, Karl Miller, passed away in early 2000, but left his son with a keen sense of what it means to care about customers and a quality product.

“My dad knew his customers on a personal level,” Miller said. “They came to the house for drinks and dinner because it was all about the relationship.”

Known as “Mr. International,” Karl Miller was one of the people who helped grow Mercury’s global distribution to what it is today. Point to a spot on the globe and the man had probably been there and knew someone. His customers would walk through fire for him, his son said.

“He’s the one who put the water gene in my head,” Steve Miller said. “ We always had a boat growing up. I learned to scuba dive and we fished a lot.”

Employed at Mercury as a senior manager in product planning/market research, Steve Miller just hit a 20-year milestone with the company. An internship after college brought him through the doors and he decided he liked being around boats and developing new and better ways of doing things.

“I try to apply a lot of what my dad taught me about getting to know people because it helps all the parts of a company work together,” he said. “And his sincerity, it’s one of the best lessons I ever learned.”

Sharon Roznik may be reached at sroznik@fdlreporter.com or (920) 907-7936.

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