Dec. 30–GODFREY — The Riverbend business community lost one of its longest, strongest members recently who founded F.E. Widman Trucking, known today as Widman Construction Inc.
Fred E. Widman, 89, who died on Christmas Eve, developed a passion for trucks at an early age. In the fall of 1952, Widman purchased his first truck, leading to the business that grew from this lifelong passion.
His family said his first truck had a bad engine and he was barely able to get it home. But, with hard work, he managed to haul water — mostly at night — to rural residents for their cisterns. By 1953, his fleet had grown to four trucks and F.E. Widman Trucking was born, eventually becoming F.E. Widman Trucking and Excavating, a premier Riverbend trucking and earth-moving company, known today as Widman Construction Inc.
By 1956, Widman’s passion for earth moving also developed when he purchased his first backhoe loader, followed by the purchase of a Caterpillar crawler loader. He started this work by performing smaller projects for Principia College in Elsah, while also maintaining growth in the trucking portion of his business.
He performed contract hauling for Thompson Asphalt, Mahoney Asphalt, Bridge’s Paving Co. and Illinois Valley Asphalt, among others. As his excavation business grew, his company became known as F.E. Widman Trucking and Excavating.
His motto was to always provide good service at a fair price, while maintaining honesty and integrity, his family said.
By the 1960s, in addition to numerous trucking contracts, Widman began performing larger construction projects, beginning with assisting on the construction and completion of the Nike Military Missile Base, located above Pere Marquette State Park. Throughout the 1960s, his trucks and equipment became instrumental in the construction and maintenance of nearly all of the region’s major highways and streets. By then, his fleet of trucks had grown to nearly 50.
Widman developed lasting relationships with many companies and individuals with which he conducted business, including Shepard, Morgan and Schwaab; the village of Godfrey; the city of Alton; Jun Construction; and, many others. But, it was his relationship with the late Homer Adams that propelled F.E. Widman Trucking and Excavating to the next level, making a long-lasting impact on the Alton/Godfrey area.
Widman saw Adams as a very gifted person, with great vision of the future and the ability to lure businesses to the Riverbend region, recalled Widman’s family. Adams brought in several companies, including but not limited to K-Mart; Target; Ramada Inn; Holiday Inn; the May Co.; Central Hardware; Sears and Roebuck, among others. This vision and development became what is known today as the Homer M. Adams Parkway.
F.E. Widman Construction provided the excavation expertise on most of these developments, including Alton Square Mall. Still today, after 65 years, Widman’s legacy lives on through Widman Construction Inc.
Despite a very busy work schedule, Widman took time to give back to the community. He often donated labor, equipment and expertise to worthwhile projects, such as the original baseball diamonds on Stamper Lane. He also contributed heavily and worked closely with the late Dr. Gordon F. Moore in the development of Gordon Moore Park in Alton.
Widman also was a longtime member of the Mason-Shriner Scottish Rite of Masonic Lodge 341 and a charter member/past president of the Gateway Piasa’s Motorhome Club. He also served as a member of the Tri-county Antique Club; the American Legion; the Alton Motorboat Club; the Southern Illinois Builders’ Association; and, the Associated General Contractors of America.
Widman also was a founding member, executive board member and past president for the Midwest Truckers’ Association, based in Springfield, Illinois, until his recent passing. This organization now serves more than 3,600 members affiliated with the trucking industry, primarily in Illinois.
Visit www.widmanconstruction.com or call Widman Construction Inc. at 618-466-1036 for more information. The company is located at 27199 Illinois Route 3 in Godfrey.
Reach Jill Moon at 618-208-6448 and Twitter @jill_moon.
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