Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act—Motion to Proceedby Senator Jerry Moran
Posted on 2014-01-08
MORAN. Madam President, I appreciate the opportunity to be here
on the Senate floor this morning since I am intruding on the discussion
about unemployment insurance extension. However, I wish to take a few
minutes to highlight the life of a Kansan who passed in late 2013.
At the end of last year, I learned of the death of a resident of Parsons, KS, in the southeast corner of our State. E.J. ``Sonny'' Zetmeir was a person of such optimism and so engaged in improving the lives of other people, I wanted to highlight and pay my respects to him and his family.
The community of Parsons lost one of its greatest champions when Sonny Zetmeir passed away. His humor and selflessness truly made an incredible impact upon that community.
Sonny had moved to Parsons, KS, from Grandview, MO, with his parents in 1965, along with a company his family owned that made cabinets. The company was called Grandview Products. He originally agreed with his family to stay in Parsons for a year to help get the business off the ground in its new location, but his commitment to his family and to his family's business continued to grow and he never left. He went on to purchase the company from his parents when they retired in 1982, and he helped build it into the outstanding cabinetmaking business it is today.
Under his leadership, Grandview Products grew from a local small business with 24 employees to a $50 million company with 430 employees, shipping cabinets from coast to coast. Today, the company is the largest employer in Parsons, and it also owns a facility in the neighboring community of Cherryvale.
Sonny's legacy as a businessman is rivaled only by his commitment to his community and improving the lives of others around him. As president and CEO of Grandview Products, he cared deeply about the health and well-being of his employees and their families. Through the recession of 2008, he fought hard to keep the company's doors open and keep as many employees as possible at work. When Grandview Products regained its footing, he worked to bring many of the former employees back to work.
Even when he received the devastating cancer diagnosis that would ultimately take his life, just a few weeks later, Sonny's thoughts immediately went to the well-being of his employees and their families. His wife Sophia relayed this story about his final weeks. She says: His number one concern was the company and his employees. It wasn't just his employees, it was the families that he was responsible for . . . Sonny was able to have a meeting with 216 employees. First, they all got a raise . . . so they wouldn't be afraid for their futures. No raises had been given in 5 years because of the recession. We're making money now, so everyone got a raise. Then, he told them who was going to be running what departments. Then, he told them how sick he was.
But his concerns for others and selflessness extended well beyond his business. He was passionate about Grandview Products being a locally owned company, and he felt a calling to serve the community through his service.
Over the years, Sonny donated cabinets to community projects, churches, and schools. He also encouraged his employees to be charitable in whatever capacity they were able. In fact, Sonny was so dedicated to giving back to the local community that he would only buy Girl Scout cookies from Girl Scouts in his home counties of Labette and Montgomery.
His service, honors, and achievements are numerous, and they include two terms as a trustee of Labette Community College and chairman of its capital fund campaign; 6 years as Labette County Republican chairman; board member of Meadowlark Girl Scout Council; and many years as president of the Parsons Area Community Foundation.
Sonny was named Parsons Chamber Business Person of the Year and the Kansas State Chamber Employer of the Year in 2003. He received the Kansas Manufacturers Association management appreciation award in 2007, and in 2008 he was chosen to receive the Cardinal Citation Award by Labette Community College. Since 1985 the Zetmeirs have cosponsored the Fourth of July fireworks at Marvel Park in Parsons.
I have always believed what we do here in the Nation's Capital is important, but the reality is we change the world one person at a time. So while what we do in the Senate matters, so much more is accomplished by a person like Sonny. Sonny Zetmeir lived that life. By investing his time and talent and financial support into the community where he lived, he made a difference every day. His involvement in the community and his selflessness serves as an inspiration and should be a role model for every American.
He was married to his wife Sophia for 51 years and was a devoted father to their 3 daughters: Ellen, Joan, and Amy. I ask the Senate to join me today in extending our heartfelt sympathies to Sonny's wife and to his family as they begin this new year in the absence of their loved one.
He was loved by them, and he will be greatly missed. If one's value in life is determined by whether or not you made a difference while you were here on this Earth, Sonny's life was priceless. God bless him and let him be a role model for all of us.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.