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Schad Foreman – The Early Years

Throughout the years, Schad has been very fortunate to have many highly competent foremen running its projects out in the field.

The foreman role is one of the most critical required to successfully completing a project. Foreman are responsible for delivering on the promises Schad makes to its customers, and they aren’t always easy promises to keep. The foreman are responsible for project execution which means that they are responsible for safety oversight, schedule compliance, installation quality, and the means and methods used to place and install materials. Bricklayers by training, being a foreman in the refractory industry requires a truly talented and versatile tradesman. Schad is truly appreciative of the contributions of its foreman not only to the company’s projects, but also of their willingness to teach up and coming Schad employees the trade. This month, we feature a few of the earliest people to perform this role at Schad.

Gar Cobb

Gar Cobb was a Schad foreman throughout much of the 1970’s and 1980’s. He is remembered for being “the ace” when it came to installing brick in channel induction furnaces throughout the Detroit area. Gar was a very talented brick mason and is remembered for his patience and willingness to teach the trade to other Schad employees coming up through the trade.

Gar was well liked by Schad’s customers and those who worked on his crews. People that worked on his crews remember that slacking was not tolerated and he often pushed the crew hard, but also rewarded them for their efforts. If they finished up the project a day early he would treat the crew to a few too many drinks and a day on his boat. Gar had a few workers that he worked with regularly in Bill Martz, Larry Miller, and Bill Lezotte. Together they worked on countless iron furnace relines.

The facilities that Gar served most regularly included Ford’s Michigan Casting Center in Flatrock, Michigan, and Chrysler’s foundry on Huber Avenue in Detroit. “We had tried to get into Huber Avenue for years,” remembers Schad Vice President, Jim Choate, Sr. “When we finally got the opportunity, Gar helped put the estimate together and helped us understand the project as thoroughly as possible. He was a smart guy and could do anything.”

Paul Zablocki

Paul Zablocki was a Schad foreman in the same time as Gar Cobb, the 1970’s and 1980’s. Paul is remembered as an “old school” tradesman who didn’t parse words. Although he could be impatient and very demanding, traits that ultimately contributed to him being such a strong foreman, he is remembered as a first class tradesman.

Paul developed his niche in the heat treat industry. He had a tremendous amount of skill when it came to laying out and installing insulating brick linings for several heat treat applications when that industry was booming throughout Detroit.

Many of Paul’s main projects took place at places many old-timers will likely remember such as Hydromatic, Commonwealth, Lear, and Acme Precision.

Like Gar, Paul was a great teacher of the trade. However, Paul required a person to demonstrate a firm commitment and a strong work ethic before he was willing to give somebody his time and attention.

Away from work, Paul was into the outdoors and enjoyed spending time in Northern Michigan.

John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie was also a Schad bricklayer foreman in the 1970’s and 1980’s. A proud Scotsman, who picked up the trade in his foreign homeland, John is remembered as a really nice guy who loved to stir the pot out on a jobsite.

John is another bricklayer who was a true craftsman. He spent a lot of time laying brick at the Detroit Waste Water Treatment Plant and on many of Schad’s early big projects at Marathon Petroleum’s Detroit Refinery.

A funny story that people remember about John is that he was always complaining that he needed more tools from the shop to complete his projects. After years of logging this complaint, upon his retirement he returned to the shop with multiple pick-up trucks full of tools that he had “accumulated” throughout the years.

Like the other great Schad foreman, John was a good and willing teacher of the trade.

On a personal side, John really enjoyed fine dining, and could often be found having dinner at The Lark in West Bloomfield.

Schad would like to thank all of its foreman past and present for the contributions that they make to the company each day. If you would like to find out about how having a Schad foreman responsible for your next project could benefit you, give Schad a call today.