Earl H. Beckering Jr.
Earl H. Beckering Jr. was born on December 23, 1919. He was the youngest of four children with siblings Ralph, Jim and Eleanor. After graduating from South High School in Grand Rapids, Earl continued his education at the University of Michigan in the engineering program. Later he completed Officer Candidate School in California and served as a Captain in the Engineering Corps. He oversaw construction of multiple airport runway projects and was privileged to oversee several aspects of a major remodeling project at the Taj Mahal.
Upon his return from World War Two in 1946, Earl went to work for his father as a superintendent at Beckering Construction Company, the predecessor of Pioneer Construction. In 1954 Earl’s father and brother passed away, and two years later Earl took the reins of the second generation family business. In 1963, Earl created a separate entity, Pioneer Construction, as a merit-shop general contractor. The name 'Pioneer' was picked because it was the first general contracting firm in West Michigan to operate an open shop. For several years, Earl ran both Beckering Construction Company and Pioneer Construction. After surviving many challenges in the early days, including having the headquarters firebombed and relocating the business into his home to maintain operations, Earl moved Pioneer Construction into rebuilt offices at the current headquarters near Burton Street and US-131 in the spring of 1965.
From that point on, Pioneer Construction experienced continued growth and success, expanding from a $5 million a year operation to nearly $100 million a year in annual construction volume. Earl semi-retired in 1979 and continued to serve the company in an advisory capacity until 1999. From 1979 until his death, Earl was an active community leader and philanthropist including active involvement with Rotary and serving as both an Elder and Deacon for Garfield Park Reformed Church.
Although a man of many talents, Earl is most remembered professionally for his involvement with industrial relations and social change and delivering every project on time and on budget. His managerial and leadership prowess helped him navigate through this incredibly challenging time in the history of the company and industry. He believed strongly in open competition and free enterprise and fought tirelessly to ensure that West Michigan construction contracts would be awarded solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation. He was a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors West Michigan Chapter. Earl served the association in many capacities including Chairing the Building Committee and later Chairing the Board of Directors. In 1980, ABC of Michigan recognized Earl's lifetime of accomplishment by awarding him the Richard F. Hooker ‘Man of the Year’ award.
Earl also received numerous project specific awards from the Associated Builders and Contractors, the American Institute of Architects and various other industry organizations for his involvement on educational construction projects for clients including Saugatuck, Fennville, and Allegan Public Schools, Creston High School, Union High School, Hope College and Calvin College, along with prominent West Michigan manufacturers such as Bissell, Steelcase, and Prince Corporation.
Most importantly, Earl was a loving husband, father and grandfather. Earl married his next-door neighbor and childhood sweetheart, Sereta Jane Morten, and together they raised six children: Jerry, Tom, David, Nancy, Marty, and Julie. Several years after Sereta's passing, Earl married Lois Eberhard with whom he enjoyed his retirement.
Earl carried on a legacy, passed down by his father, of a strong work ethic, handshake agreements, personal service, quality craftsmanship and philanthropy. In the process, he helped build a family owned and operated organization that is now thriving into the fourth generation under the leadership of Earl’s grandchildren, Tim & Barbie Schowalter. He did all of this while always remembering his community and giving back of his time, talent and treasure.