The selection committee for the Eleventh Annual Mayor’s Dinner decided to ask a couple, Steve and Eve Menich to be this year’s guests of honour. Each in their own way represent a life-time commitment to community good work.
Steve Menich’s enterprising and good work roots run deeply through K-W. Two stories connect him to individuals and enterprises that span over 100 years. When Steve retired from Sutherland and Schultz he not only was president, but he owned the company. An April 1982 K-W Record article by Henry Koch described Sutherland & Schultz as, “A 2-man operation with one bicycle back in 1922 in a basement cubby hole of what is now the Bullas Furniture Store on Ontario Street South.
Founded by Fred Schultz and Harry Holmes, it was then known as Holmes- Schultz Electric. Schultz rewound motors and Holmes did electrical wiring for local firms and got around on the bicycle. Later the tiny firm acquired an old truck.
Dan Sutherland of Hamilton, a Canadian General Electric traveller, bought out Holmes’ share in 1942 and the company was renamed Sutherland-Schultz Electric.
It soon outgrew its basement cubby hole and moved to what is now the Chicken House restaurant at 30 Ontario St. S. After five years at its two Ontario Street locations, it moved to more spacious quarters in a building immediately west of the CNR tracks on King Street West.
Two more moves followed as the company expanded. In the early 1940’s it relocated to 124 Ottawa St. S. in the building now occupied by Union Electric Supply Co. Ltd. Dan Sutherland died in 1934 and Fred Schultz in 1948.
The company grew from the Ontario Street cubbyhole to a modem 1.5- acre-under-roof facility on a seven-acre landscape site, from two people and one bicycle to 350 people and a fleet of 54 vehicles and from rewinding motors and rewiring buildings to a host of services that would amaze the founders.”
Steve joined Sutherland and Schultz as an Engineer in 1951 after serving in World War II. His first job was to convert motors in the K-W area from 25 to 60 cycle. Thirty years later, as owner of the company, he reflected on his ideas on management that evolved over his long career:
“Times changed and decision by consensus is the most democratic way of running a business. It recognizes the importance of human values and relation ships by allowing individuals to become involved in the decision-making process, utilizes the re sources of many minds including specialists, encourages people to accept responsibility and makes them much more effective.”
Another story written by Deborah Crandall in the Waterloo Chronicle in 1991 tells the story of the building of the Kinsmen Centre on Sydney Street in Kitchener. When Steve became president of the Kinsmen Club in 1959 they decided to work to make life better for mentally challenged children. As president of the building Committee they set out to build the Province’s second school for mentally challenged children. “We didn’t have any money, we were small club. But we saw a need and we decided we would build a school for these kids.”
The committee was able to secure an architect who volunteered his time to work on the project, and Menich approached Kitchener’s parks and recreation department about a possible location for the facility.
“To get the land, I went to the, at that time, Kitchener Parks Board, and I told them the story about the retarded children and how inferior their treatment was. A.R. Kaufman was on the board - he was a very forceful individual, but a wonderful individual - gruff on the surface, but really a pussycat. I told him we had no money, but needed land, and they happened to have a lot of land. I asked if it would be possible if they could donate the land needed far the school.”
The City’s Parks Board ended up leasing the land to the Kinsmen Club for $1 a year.
Steve’s community contributions have ranged from work with mentally challenged children to the Kitchener Sports Association, K-W Blueline Club, Kitchener Minor Hockey Association, Kitchener Minor Baseball Association, Adult Education, and chair of the Kitchener and Waterloo High School Board. Steve has contributed more than 27 years on various committees of the United Way of Kitchener-Waterloo and is an Honorary Lifetime Director.
Steve’s sports connections gave him a chance to directly work with youth. He recently noted how he coached a big, young, aggressive football player named Wayne Samuelson who he later worked closely with at the United Way. Wayne served as President of The Working Centre Board of Directors back in the mid- 1980’s, and was recently elected as President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Steve speaks of this direct involvement in the lives of young people as one of the highlights of his life long work.
As Chair of the Chamber of Commerce Waste Management and Energy Management Committees Steve has helped to pioneer such efforts as the First Waste Exchange in Canada and the First Community Hazardous Waste days, and he promoted a number of programs to help business control energy consumption through energy efficient measures.
Eve Menich raised her family in the 50’s and 60’s and found ways to combine raising a family with volunteer work. She worked in the areas of education, hospitals and other ways that complimented this commitment to family. She was the first woman on the St. Mary Hospital board, where she served for 11 years, and was a member of the Ontario Hospital Association several years. She is one of the founding members of the Separate School Board’s family life program, and is Past Chair and founding member of the Board for the local Meals on Wheels program.
She has served on a long list of other community organizations and in roles that range from Parent-Teachers Associations, Teacher’s Assistant, YWCA Mother and Tiny-Tot exercise and health programs, K W Kinnette Club, Catholic Women’s League, an active member of the St. Anthony Daniel Catholic Church, a ten year volunteer with Joseph Schneider Haus, and is presently a Board member of Water loo Region Catholic Community Foundation.
Eve has continued her volunteer work in an active way with the Catholic Family Counselling Centre. In January Eve was working hard on organizing the Catholic Family Counselling Centre’s Annual Dinner. After spending the morning helping out at St. John’s Kitchen to learn about the people who come to the Kitchen, she was off to attend to last minute organizing details for the dinner. As a Board member she has watched the Catholic Family Counsel ling Centre grow out of its location. The present climate of social cutbacks and unemployment has made their counselling program more important than ever. As Eve has come to see the tremendous stress in people’s lives she has been more and more involved in the Centre’s work. She excitedly told us how she is looking forward to participating in the Centre’s million dollar fundraising effort.
The Menichs have travelled to many interesting countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Zambia, New Guinea, and West Africa. In a Seniors’ magazine they explained their travel philosophy:
'Neither enjoy the whirlwind trips that invariably end up in a western-style hotel in a big city. Both have an intense curiosity about ancient cultures and “if we were going to lean about these people, their religion, politics, and social organizations, we needed to travel to their countries.” Many of the places they have visited are countries whose borders had been closed for many years to foreigners, usually for political reasons. They forego some comfort in exchange for an opportunity to visit places not normally open to travellers.'
In the same article, the author concluded with this description of the Menichs.
'This Waterloo couple has not hesitated in turning their retirement into a dream- fulfilling experience. Whether crossing a Nepal mountain pass, trekking the Austrian Alps, or hiking a scenic Waterloo country road, each morning brings promise of another day of high adventure.'
The Menich’s 'high adventure' has been part of all they have contributed to K-W throughout their married lives.