Honoring Their Legacies — The 2020 Masonry Hall of Fame Interviews

Words: Todd Fredrick

Words & Photos: MASONRY Magazine  

Brian Carney 

Masonry Magazine: How did you get started in the industry?  

Brian Carney: I got started in the industry when I was 20 years old. I started when I was a college kid going to school for marketing. I drove by a concrete block plant one day, and I thought that has to be a good-paying job. So, I swung in and was able to get with the general manager, I sat down with him and said I was a hard-working guy, and if given the opportunity I wouldn't let him down. In a couple of days, I joined the block industry as a cuber.  

A cuber is a guy that stands flat-footed for 8-10 hours a day with headphones in and feeds kiln-dried block through a palletizer machine that makes cubes of block. I did that for one summer, and when I came back the following summer, I learned my job was no longer available. My foreman at the time told me to go into the office and talk to Sylvia, her husband is a mason contractor and may need a tender.   

I asked what a tender was, and my foreman told me, "You go on a masonry job, and you make mortar and stack block all day." He told me I could do the job. So, I took the interview with the mason contractor, and I could tell right away he was thinking, "oh, this is a college kid who doesn't know anything masonry and probably can't work that hard or do anything." He told me he'd call me if he needed me. The next day he called me. So, I drove out to the jobsite and saw all these big guys standing around, and I could tell when they looked at me that they thought I was a college kid that doesn't know much about the business.  

But they let me on the job, I started working, and before I knew it, I fit in, and I realized these guys were hard-working people, and if I do the same, I'd be ok. So, I went from being a cuber at a block plant to a mason tender on a jobsite. Then about three years later, after getting my Marketing Degree, I started working at SPEC MIX, and I've been there ever since.   

M.M.: How did you make your way through the industry to where you are today?  

B.C.: Through a lot of hard work, of course. But mostly, it was working with a lot of smart people who are passionate about the industry. I've always worked with people who care about masonry. I think what helped me the most is that I started as a young guy on a jobsite and learning the business from the ground up. Seeing how hard the guys work, the pride they have in their work, and the importance of having quality materials and products.  

That helped me to realize this work is for a hard-working industry, and if you're going to work with them, you do not want to let them down. They really need people that are ensuring their job is going to go as smooth as it can and the product performance is there. That's been driving me at SPEC MIX, making sure the product is right and good and on time.   

M.M.: What are some challenges you faced during your time in the masonry industry?  

B.C.: My biggest challenge was coming in this business without having any family history or background. I was very green. When I joined SPEC MIX, I had my background as a mason tender for three years, and that's all I knew about masonry. So, there we were trying to set up this SPEC MIX operation program and trying to change the masonry industry. I was going out there as a 25-year-old kid with little experience.  

Yes, I knew how to make mortar, but trying to go out and tell contractors to throw away their old ways of making mortar and switch to a whole new system and cost structure in their mind was challenging. I wanted to make sure they understood how good it was for them, and not having that background and the knowledge of a mason made it a bit of a challenge. I stuck with it, was able to listen to a lot, and hear what was important to them, and more contractors started to switch over to using SPEC MIX. It was a success in a relatively short period.   

M.M.: What are some of your proudest moments?  

B.C.: There have been several proud moments in my career. The first was two years ago when I was awarded the C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award, which was overwhelming. I think I was the first person from the supply side of the business to receive this award. I thought about the other great successors that have received this award before me, and I knew I was in elite company. Another proud moment was the success of the SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500®. I know where it started and where it has come to today.   

When we tried it out in 2003, there were six or seven competitors, today we have 28 teams competing from all over the world, and we have 24 regional competitions, and $125,000.00 purse. It's pretty exciting to see what it has become. I'm most proud of how it has united the industry and has people rallying around it. It has not only become a way to promote the masonry industry, but it is also a way to promote workforce development, we're trying to get new and younger people into the industry. I'm very proud of it and excited about its future.   

M.M.: What's one piece of advice you would give your younger self?  

B.C.: Work hard, respect the people around you, and listen. It's the basic things that are so important to the industry. In this business you keep things simple. I also say if you believe in something, you're passionate about it and have a plan and believe in it even it no one else does. Stick with it and get it done.   

M.M.: What is the biggest challenge the masonry industry is facing today?  

B.C.: Clearly, the industry's biggest challenge is recharging the workforce and bringing new talent, energy, and technology. It's a big challenge, but I think if we work together as an industry and everybody pitches in, I think we can all overcome it. That's why I believe the CMU Checkoff Program and The Masonry Foundation are so important. With people pledging their additional dollars to the foundation, we'll have the resources to create new masonry training programs and marketing tools to go out and create an awareness out there within the younger generation. Masonry has a lot to offer and is a great business.  

M.M.: What advice would you give to younger people entering the industry today?  

B.C.: First and foremost, come on in! You'll love it. It is a great industry. But when you come in, be ready to work hard (I probably say that a lot), leave your ego at the door, there's no room for it in the industry. The people in this business are straightforward and want honesty, and above all, they want you to respect what they do every day. That's one of the things that hit me hard when I came into the industry, and it made me a lot better at what I do. Because I respect and understand what they do every day. It gives them a real sense of pride. You have to have and understand that to be successful and accepted.   

M.M.: What is your legacy?  

B.C.: For most people, I'm sure they'd probably say, "The guy to lay brick or block, he's not a mason at all. But he loved the masonry industry as much as anybody." I'm pretty sure I'm being inducted into the Hall of Fame is because of the work I've done to support the industry and the workforce development initiatives I've created. Ever since I entered into this business in 1993, I've always had a focus on bringing new talent into the craft.  

It started with the SkillsUSA competition when I had gone and saw 50 kids competing for the national title. But then I realized they were all there to start a whole new career and life. It just moved me. I hope that's what I'm recognized for, helping to create a better industry and work environment and bringing new people into the industry who love it.   

M.M.: What does being inducted into the Hall of Fame mean to you?  

B.C.: Being inducted into The Masonry Hall of Fame is the biggest honor of my life and certainly the pinnacle of my career. When I look at the previous inductees and the people who entered into the Hall of Fame before me, I realized these are people I've admired and respected all my life and found a great sense of inspiration.  

It's a big honor, and I'm overwhelmed, proud, and humbled. It's funny, I've spent my whole career doing something I really love, and I'm passionate about, and yet that's the reason I end up in the Hall of Fame. It's a great surprise and the biggest honor I've had. Overall, I feel very blessed to be in the masonry industry. It's the best choice I ever made. 

Doug Drye 

Masonry Magazine: How did you get started in the industry?  

Doug Drye: I was in high school, walking up the sidewalk on lunch break at Mount Pleasant High School (Concord, North Carolina), and this teacher came up to me and introduced himself as Mr. Boss. He told me some of his masonry students told him I might be interested in taking his course at the high school. He invited me up to the masonry shop, and when I got up there, I saw all the projects that were on the floor, and I told Mr. Boss masonry might be something I'd be good at doing. The next semester I signed up for the class, and that's how I got started in the masonry industry?  

M.M.: How did you make your way through the industry to where you are now?  

D.D.: After graduation, I decided I was going into the bricklaying business, so there was a guy in the community that was a home builder, and he hired me. He had one brick mason, and I had to carry brick, make mortar, and do everything. Then I was able to lay brick. I worked for him for a while, then he retired, and I didn't know what exactly I was going to do.   

But I had a buddy from the bricklaying class whose dad owned a large masonry company. So, I had gone to work with him and signed up with the North Carolina Department of Labor and Apprenticeship Program. I went through three years of apprenticeship, I worked hard, and had two master masons that took me under their wing and trained me. Then after about three or four years, I had a crew and worked for him for quite a while.   

Then the recession hit, and I had to make a decision and started working for myself for some time. Then I decided I wanted to learn another trade, so I tried the electrical trade. I worked for a university and was there for a while, and taught at other electrical and technical schools. My old bricklaying teacher Mr. Boss called me up one day and told me he was retiring. So, I put in an application for his position and interviewed for the job, and low and behold I was hired at the same place I started in the masonry industry, and that is how I got started masonry teaching business.  

M.M.: What are some challenges you faced during your time in the masonry industry?  

D.D.: As a teacher, I had to be prepared to teach the skills of masonry each day in class, and that was challenging because everyone had different abilities and ways of learning. I had to be able to teach everyone the same information in different ways. Then when I was in the field, it was always a challenge working in cold or hot weather.   

M.M.: What are some of your proudest moments?  

D.D.: One of the proudest moments I ever had is when I became a Christian, and the other proud moments I've had are when I saw my students from high school going from high school into the field of masonry. I'm very proud of those students.  

M.M.: What's one piece of advice you would give your younger self?  

D.D.: I would tell my younger self while I was in high school, study harder in math class. Once I finished high school and went into the masonry industry and started taking classes at the community college. I was weak in math and had to take a lot of classes to bring my skills up in that area. There's a lot of math in construction. I'd also tell my younger self to save a little bit more money.    

M.M.: What is the biggest challenge the masonry industry is facing today?  

D.D.: The masonry workforce, it's just hard to find good-qualified masons and to keep the workforce strong. That's the biggest challenge today.   

M.M.: What is your legacy?  

D.D.: When I retired from teaching at the high school, I left behind a very productive masonry program. The students I taught that are successful in the masonry industry, I feel like I made a difference in their lives at all levels and that's a legacy I can say I left behind.   

M.M.: What advice would you give to younger people entering the industry today?  

D.D.: If there are masonry programs in the high schools, take them, and after that, find a good masonry company and sign up with their apprenticeship program, take classes of all kinds. Work hard, be on time, and be a team player.  

M.M.: What does being inducted into the Hall of Fame mean to you?  

D.D.: It's a true blessing to me. There's an old saying that the teachers touch lives forever. I think being inducted into the Hall of Fame will touch my life forever.   

Mark Kemp 

Masonry Magazine.: How did you get started in the industry?  

Mark Kemp: My father was a mason by trade and was one of the four owners in Superior Masonry Builders (Superior). I started as a water boy. I would get water and would distribute it to the masons and the laborers on a jobsite. Then from there, I would clean up jobsites and clean up the construction yard. When I went to high school, I became a concrete and mason laborer, which gave me a pretty well-rounded background in both fields. I remember when I was in grade school, I was given six cents an hour, so I asked my father for a raise. He agreed and asked how much, I said 50 cents a day, so I got a two-cent raise. Instead of getting 48 cents a day, I was making 50 cents a day. I found that to be funny as a child laborer, you know. It worked out well thought, and that's how I got my start.   

M.M.: How did you make your way through the industry to where you are now?  

M.K.: I worked as a laborer and a truck driver through high school, and I also washed brick for Superior. When I was a sophomore in college, I decided I wanted to start my own business, so I started Badger Brick Washers, and I would wash Superior's brick as well as for several other contractors in town. I made enough money to pay for my education, and it also gave me flexibility with my hours. A lot of times, I would have to wash after hours when everyone was offsite because nobody likes a brick washer.   

Then I decided since I had a concrete background, I could start doing side jobs. That grew, and contractors started to ask if I could make punch lists for them, so I would do that, which is a thankless job. I did that through college, and I graduated with a degree in Business Administration with a Minor in Real Estate and Urban Development. In 1975 or '76, I came back to Superior and became Secretary-Treasurer, and through the process, I took over the masonry division, and then the concrete division, as well as running the office.   

By 1985, I bought out all of the partners, and I hired Donald Burn, a great guy, he was my Vice President. Donald was the greatest guy ever. He was my mentor in the construction industry. I'll always remember his words to me because, during this time, I was estimating too. He told me I was never going to be a good estimator; I just didn't have the time. I took his advice to heart, and Donald handled the estimating, and everything was fine. The best thing I ever did was to listen to somebody who gave me good advice and followed it. From there, Superior just kept growing to where it is now.   

M.M.: What are some challenges you faced during your time in the masonry industry?  

M.K.: The first challenge I faced was getting people to accept new ideas, particularly the other owners. Superior was an "ok" company, but I knew we could be a lot better than what we were. To teach the old cat new tricks so-to-speak was a little challenging. We were replacing some of the guys we had in the field that were just punching the clock. I wanted guys that would give me an honest day's work, get good pay, and become a family. That took a lot of time. The other challenge I've faced is I'm a union contractor, and that can be a little challenging at times. It takes a lot of your time negotiating contracts. It's very time-consuming.   

M.M.: What are some of your proudest moments?  

M.K.: My family is priority number one to me. Next would be getting Superior to what it is today, from a small "ok" company to a successful company. Serving the industry, I love doing that. It gives me joy and happiness. Having my son join me in the business, we're very lucky it worked out because that doesn't always happen. The Masonry Foundation is changing the future of our industry. We're able to do things like workforce development, programs at the universities to promote and teach masonry and promote public safety through the use of masonry instead of wood. It's a whole lot of things that touch you. I know a lot of concrete people from doing concrete. But masonry people are special.   

M.M.: What's one piece of advice you would give your younger self?  

M.K.: Stay true to yourself. Be who you are. Don't be somebody that you are not. We have a program called City Youth Martial Arts and I talk to those people there. I tell them: don't try to be the tough guy, be who you are, and people will respect that. The other statement that ties into that is struggling + effort = success. Nothing in life that's worthwhile isn't easy, but if you put the time in the struggles and the effort, then you're going to be successful.   

M.M.: What is the biggest challenge the masonry industry is facing today?  

M.K.: Workforce development, we just don't have the skilled people for any of the trades. That's again tying back into the Masonry Foundation. We need to get into the high schools and the grade schools and start promoting the trades. The more we can do that, the more people we bring in, the better the choice we'll have for individuals. The other problem is gaining back our market share, we've lost a lot of our market share to competing products, and that is because we haven't promoted the benefits of using masonry products. Down the road again, the Masonry Foundation can help change the minds of architects, engineers, and public officials.   

M.M.: What is your legacy?  

M.K.: I look at it as leaving this place a little bit better off than what you came in. Do little things to help other people succeed. That's what I want to be known for. Stepping up to the plate, whether it's in the industry or outside the industry doing good for others, is by far the best thing you can do.   

M.M.: What advice would you give to younger people entering the industry today?  

M.K.: Nothing comes easy. You'll have to work hard. Struggling and effort equal success. The more struggles you have, the stronger person you will become. As you grow and become successful, fall back and reach out and help the next person giving them a helping hand. So that person can do the same for the next up and coming person.   

M.M.: What does being inducted into the Hall of Fame mean to you?  

M.K.: First and foremost, I would say it's an honor. I don't believe it's my honor. This industry is made up of a lot of good people, contractors, and suppliers, and it really is their award. It shouldn't be mine. It doesn't matter if the person is putting in a lot of hours giving back to the industry or somebody that does a little bit. The fact that they're doing anything makes them a part of this industry. I'm honored, but this should be their award, not mine.   

Paul Hoggatt 

Masonry Magazine: How did you get started in the industry?  

Paul Hoggatt: I was 13 years old when my dad decided to send me to bricklaying apprentice school. It was a 20-day wonder school — that's what they called it back then in the summer. I worked during the summer for my dad for his masonry construction company. Every summer, I would work for him or another contractor if he didn't have work until I graduated from high school.  

M.M.: How did you make your way through the industry to where you are now?  

P.H.: I started working for my dad or other contractors during the summer, and as that progressed, I started doing more and more work and reading blueprints. When I was 18, I graduated from high school and became a Bricklayer Foreman, and I worked in that position for several years. After that, my dad decided to incorporate the company. He and I, with my two older brothers, incorporated the company and were all partners for 10 years. Then that changed when one of my brothers decided to go out on his own. That's when I took over running the company, and I ran it until I retired.   

M.M.: What are some challenges you faced during your time in the masonry industry?  

P.H.: The first big challenge I came across was when I became a Bricklayer Foreman at the age of 18 and being the boss of these older bricklayers. They didn't like taking orders from a young 18-year-old kid fresh out of high school. So, that was a real challenge to learn how to deal with that. Eventually, I overcame that by firing a few of them. They learned I could sign a check, and they learned to take orders from me. The next thing was when I started running the company the very first year. It happened during the downturn in the economy.   

When I took the business over, we didn't have much work or money, and I had a real rough time getting through that year. But somehow, I scraped and managed, my older brother and I made our way through that year and that was a big deal. I guess that was a major accomplishment. We got through two more major downturns, and later on, I decided to diversify, and that didn't really work out because I didn't know too much about that business. We came out that too. You learn from your mistakes, and those are the things you learn when you're in business.  

M.M.: What are some of your proudest moments?  

P.H.: When I was about 23 or 24, I built a church in Houston, TX — a sanctuary with a lot of arches that had bullseyes windows. It had a lot of stone and brick masonry. It was just a gorgeous masonry job. I was young and had a lot to learn about weighing out those kinds of jobs. I built that sanctuary, and it's still standing today, that's one of my proudest moments. I like to go back there and visit it. In fact, I went back there recently with one of my grandsons to show him.   

Other proud moments were getting through those years when it was really rough, and we managed to get through them and made some decisions that got us through. We worked with CPA's, bankers, and lawyers who helped us to make decisions that I, as a young man didn't know much. We got through it and survived, and that made me very proud.   

Another proud moment was when the State Association created an award for me in honor of the work that I did. It's one they've never handed out before, and I was the first recipient, and maybe even the only one to get the award. Then the MCAA awarded me the C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award one year, which was a total surprise.   

They caught me totally by surprise, and I wasn't prepared to make a speech. I'm usually not speechless, but that time I was. Probably my proudest moment was when my son, Andrew, decided to buy into the business with me, so I had someone to leave the company to that was a part of the family.   

M.M.: What's one piece of advice you would give your younger self?  

P.H.: Find a mentor before going int business. I didn't do that, and I think that I made way too many mistakes on the business end. I didn't know a lot, so if I had a mentor that knew something about the business that I could have run things by, it would've made a difference.    

M.M.: What is the biggest challenge the masonry industry is facing today?  

P.H.: Shortage of manpower, that's going to be a problem for a while until they solve the immigration problem, as well as the problem of wages. I think they need to get the wages up and come up with some sort of immigration problem that will allow the people that are already here illegally to work here legally. I think that will solve some of the issues that we have.   

M.M.: What is your legacy?  

P.H.: My true legacy is my children. I have faith and confidence that I have left four children in this world that have all been successful, grown-up, have kids, productive in this world, have morals, and are giving back. I'm very proud of them.  

M.M.: What advice would you give to younger people entering the industry today?  

P.H.: Work hard, be honest, be true to your work, and ethics. Give back to your industry in any way you can. If you remain a bricklayer, try to teach others how to do their work. If you're contracting, give back to the industry by being a part of associations in any way you can. Try to work with people who teach masonry in colleges and schools, anyway that can promote the masonry industry. We need to give back to our world and grow our industry. It's the same thing as tithing in church, if you give back a percentage, you gain from that. This is something I've learned throughout the years, and something my dad has taught me, he was a minister as well as a contractor. I feel that it's important to give back to this industry.   

M.M.: What does being inducted into the Hall of Fame mean to you?  

P.H.: It means that I've been recognized by my peer group as being exceptional. I'm not sure exactly why I'm being recognized for being exceptional. But I guess it's because I've given back, and I appreciated being recognized. I'm grateful someone has submitted my name for this. It's truly a remarkable thing to be recognized by people that I've known through the years that are also in this hall of fame already. I wonder how I can be in their class. It's an amazing thing.   

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