Prominent buildings from Washington to Tokyo are made from stone harvested by a quarry that Howard Vetter helped start and grow until the day before he died. In the eyes of his children and grandchildren, Howard leaves behind an equally influential legacy of civic service. Ron Vetter still remembers the quote his father gave to […]
Prominent buildings from Washington to Tokyo are made from stone harvested by a quarry that Howard Vetter helped start and grow until the day before he died.
In the eyes of his children and grandchildren, Howard leaves behind an equally influential legacy of civic service.
Ron Vetter still remembers the quote his father gave to The Free Press in 1976 after winning the Mankato Exchange Club’s Book of Golden Deeds Award.
“If a person is able to do it and doesn’t, he doesn’t have much to complain about,” Howard said.
Ron was just a child when his father said those words but he never forgot them, and has tried to live by them like his father did.
“He believed that it’s your duty to give back to your community and he taught us that from a very young age,” Ron said.
Howard gave back in prominent ways, including serving as the mayor of North Mankato and, with his son, donating the stone for the Vetter Stone Amphitheater.
But Howard also gave back in more quiet ways, including as a member of numerous civic organizations.
“He often did it without any fanfare,” Ron said.
Howard died Wednesday at age 85. He had been suffering from congestive heart failure for over a year. But again, his son said Howard wasn’t one to complain. While his failing heart limited him a bit, he continued to work four days a week, work out almost daily at the YMCA and share his wisdom with his 20 grandchildren.
Howard, his father and three brothers founded Vetter Stone Company in 1954, reviving harvesting of the area’s signature limestone. While his brothers went on to find other professional pursuits, Howard grew the business with Ron, including the addition of a second quarry in Alabama.
Vetter stone is now part of many government facilities such as the Minnesota Senate offices, a part of skyscrapers from Chicago to Tokyo and on many college campuses including Gustavus Adolphus College.
Ron said his father was especially proud of their company’s contributions to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Target Field and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Even several years after Ron took the helm as president, Howard continued to be actively involved in the company and had no plans to retire.
“He loved nothing better than throwing a hard hart on and getting down into the plant and solving a problem,” Ron said.
Howard’s love for travel led to adventures that included mountain climbing in Nepal and hiking in the Arctic.
But the Mankato area was always his home. He grew up in Kasota and spent several years in North Mankato before building his own home on Lake Washington.
Howard’s first civic leadership was president of the Mankato Jaycees from 1962 to 1963.
He was elected to the North Mankato City Council in 1963. He entered politics “because he thought city government could be better run and the cost of government was increasing too rapidly,” states an article in The Free Press archives.
He was appointed mayor in 1966, replacing mayor Ray Eckes, who was appointed to the Nicollet County Board. He was elected for a full term and then retired from city politics in 1969.
Howard also served terms leading the YMCA board of directors, the Mankato Human Rights Commission and Boy Scout Troop 77 Committee. He also served on many other boards including the Region Nine Development Commission, Mankato Rehabilitation Center, Holy Rosary Parish and Mankato Area Chamber of Commerce.
Howard received several local awards for his civic service. As he presented the Golden Deeds Award in 1976, New Ulm Bishop Alphonse Schladweiler said Howard’s civic contributions were too numerous to list.
“Man is too apt to be wrapped up in himself. But this is not true of Howard Vetter,” the bishop said.