A sad farewell

By Caro U. Rock

This spring, I lost my dear 95-year-old father, Paul Uhlmann Jr., the second-generation patriarch of my family business in Kansas City. He was an amazing and quite beloved husband, father and grandfather. Words used by the community to describe my father all had overlapping themes—true gentleman, quick-witted, intelligent, elegant, kind and cultured. He was considered a renaissance man and was known for creating clever poems and songs for his friends and family to commemorate special occasions.

My father was active in the community; he served on numerous cultural and business boards but will most be remembered for his wonderful entertaining with my gracious mother. My parents met on a blind date in 1947 and were married three months later. They were happily married for 52 years until my mother's untimely death in 1999.

An avid reader and lover of history, my father excelled at Dartmouth College, where, as a member of the graduating class of 1942, he enlisted in Officers Training School and was sent to the Middle East for the next four years. A member of the "Greatest Generation" who served as a captain in the Army Air Force, he was asked a few years ago by Dartmouth to document memories of his experience, which were later published in a book, Dartmouth at War. The war had a profound effect on my father that carried over into his daily life. His emphasis on rules, order, compassion and teamwork derived from his military experience.

The scion of an old German grain trading family, my father, after a stint as an investment banker, joined his father and his best friend and brother, Pat, in acquiring Standard Milling Company, makers of Ceresota and Heckers Flour. The family grew the company to include Campfire Marshmellows, Maypo and Wheatena hot cereals, charcoal briquettes and other food products. The milling business took my parents to Buffalo, N.Y., for three months during the summer. I have 30 years of wonderful memories residing on the Canadian side of Lake Erie at Bay Beach, Ontario. Each summer, my father would take us to see the Shakespeare and Shaw Festivals, insisting we read each play prior to seeing it, which certainly highlighted the experience.

My grandfather, my father, his brother and two nephews all worked in the family business in Kansas City. One nephew, who was extremely talented musically, left to pursue those interests. This occurred about the same time my brother, Paul III, entered the business after earning an MBA and working for five years outside the family company. My father and my uncle graciously let their father come to work as often as he wanted up until his death in 1969 at age 86. This unique and generous situation was repeated for my own father after he had handed the reins to my brother 25 years ago. While this experience is not for everyone, being able to come to the office four days a week during the six months he was in town probably kept my father engaged and alive until he peacefully passed away in late March. He will be very much missed by all.

My father was not only a longtime subscriber to Family Business Magazine, but also a tremendous advocate for family business in general. He always felt it better to work for yourself and your family, provided the dynamics are right.

Copyright 2016 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

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May/June 2016

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