It was 1958, and Dale Lovell was heading to a job in Schuyler when he was pulled over by a state patrolman.
Lovell was driving a 1949 International flatbed pickup truck which, according to his son, Mike, “everything that (could be) wrong with it was wrong with it.”
“No headlights, no taillights, (a) broken window, everything,” Mike said. “The state patrolman happened to know him by name and said, ‘Dale, where are you going with this contraption?’ He said, ‘I’m going over to Schuyler, I’ve got a job mopping up a roof. As soon as I get that done, I’ll be able to get this fixed.’”
After his run-in with the patrolman, Dale began the job of mopping up a bank’s roof with hot tar. As he was doing his work on the roof, someone from a car dealership came up to him asking for an estimate for his roof.
“He got done with the bank and went to the car dealership,” Mike said. “When he got done with that, the post office got a hold of him. So he went over and mopped the post office (roof). By the time he got done in Schuyler, he had done five jobs and he made pretty good money over there doing that.”
Those five jobs proved to be the starting point for a long and fruitful career. Dale and his wife, Roberta, started Dale’s Roofing in Columbus in 1960, and from there, he earned a reputation across the town as a hard-working, committed roofer.
Over 59 years, his family estimates that he had worked on hundreds of roofs all over Platte County, and the business itself was a family affair. From his wife to his son, Mike, who became his business partner in 2006, the family had its hands all over the business and worked hard to make it one of the more prominent roofing companies in Columbus.
Next year will be the 60th year of Dale’s Roofing; however, its founder won’t be there to see it. On Oct. 19, with his son in the room by his side, Dale died at the age of 88. Mike knew that health problems were affecting him, as there was a litany of issues he'd been dealing with prior to his passing.
“He had congestive heart failure, kidney failure, he had Type-2 diabetes and he had macular degeneration,” Mike said. “At 88 years old, it led up to it. His health wasn’t the best.”
The news of his death touched the family that had spent so much time with him. His grandson, Jon, who works as a surveyor for a consulting group in Omaha, said that his commitment to his customers set him apart from others in the field.
“He was loyal, he was generous, faith-driven, honest and hard-working,” Jon said. “He raised 10 kids, that’s an accomplishment on its own. They never went hungry.”
In addition to the 10 children, he had 28 grandchildren and 58 great-grandchildren. They all have plenty of memories of the late man in action, including one instance when Jon was in high school.
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“We have a shop downtown and we always used to go down to the shop to do weed control,” Jon said. “He had an old payload that he would drive around and he would harrow the gravel with it. He just loved doing it, even when he was 85 years old.”
Those who knew Dale well, even in his old age, remember him with great fondness. The Rev. Joe Miksch of St. Isidore's Catholic Church said that Dale was a quiet man and loyal Husker fan who was happy with how his life had progressed.
"You would ask him questions and he would answer," Miksch said. "He grew up in hard times and I think as a result, he treasured what he had. I think he felt satisfied with what he had accomplished in life, that he had a good wife and family and I think he was proud of that."
As a business partner, Mike remembers his father as an honest man who kept his most loyal and consistent customers. Dale taught Mike a great deal about how to deal with customers and how to explain issues that they might have with the jobs that they were doing.
“We redid roofs for people four to five times because they loved Dale’s Roofing,” Mike said. “He was always honest with his customers. He would tell them, if he ran into a problem, he would explain it to them. That’s what he taught me and I’ve ran into that a few times this year. ‘We missed this, you’re roof had more than one layer on it. Sometimes we miss them and we’re going to have to re-deck them.’
“When you look at a roof, you don’t know what’s underneath it. When you tear into something and you find bad wood or something, we would take the time to explain it to customers. Now, with a phone on your camera, you can take pictures and say, ‘Here’s what we have,’ because an older person can’t get up on the roof. I would take pictures and show them, ‘This is what’s bad (and) this is what we have to do.’”
The experience under his father is something that Mike will take with him even after his father’s death. As much as he worked with his father as a business partner, it will be the times where they were just father and son, having a bite to eat, that Mike will certainly miss.
“My best memory of my dad is picking him up for lunch,” Mike said. “I got to pick him up every day for lunch from 2015 up until he got sick. We went out to Westbrook Lanes for lunch every day because he liked to play Keno. He would pick the 3’s all the way down. He always had a hamburger on toast, every day.”
Mike has been doing most of the work for the business for several years now as his father’s health declined. The business will keep Dale’s memory alive by continuing to do the solid, reliable work that it's known for, from generation to generation.
“I’ve been running it by myself for the last six years,” Mike said. “It’s going to stay the same as it has. Dale’s Roofing is going to be the same; it’s just that Dale’s Roofing is Mike Lovell. Dale’s gone.
“As the third generation, I’ll keep it going. Jonathan’s fourth generation and he’ll carry it on after that.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.