The Founders - Wayne & Cleda Dowhower
Yes, the American Dream is cliché, but this dream does not come without its trials and tribulations.
Cleada Marian (Vencill) Dowhower McCammon was born August 27, 1927 in North Platte, Nebraska to Ervin and Marguerite (Wendeborn) Vencill. Wayne N Dowhower was born December 20, 1927 in North Platte, Nebraska. Both of them attended North Platte Public Schools. In 1945, Cleda graduated from North Platte High School. In 1951, Wayne and Cleda married on the 25th wedding anniversary of her parents.
Starting Life - Wayne started literally from scratch doing occasional remodeling and cabinet work during his free time from a railroad job. She worked at McDonald State Bank in high school and continued to do so for 20 years. It taught her how to treat people with respect, to be fair, and to apply sound business principles. The couple welcomed a son in 1957 and a daughter named Dee V Dowhower Luttrell in 1963.
The Beginning - Wayne decided to build a career. They founded Wayne Dowhower Construction Co. on March 1st, 1959, with boundless energy and willingness to work, dedication to quality, and a cheerful nature that made people look forward to doing business with them. Until 1964, Cleda worked full time at McDonald State Bank before dedicating herself to the family business.
Community - Both of them contributed generously to building their own community. You could count on them for time, money or both when you needed help with a community project. During the early 1960s, Wayne was a founding member and charter president of the Nebraska Home Builders Association. He later served as president of the North Platte Home Builders Association. In addition to being a past president of North Platte Rotary, he also served on the board of the Platte Valley Softball Association. The B.P.O. Elks Lodge No. 985 was another organization he belonged to. From March 1968 until January 1969, he served as Lincoln County Commissioner for District One, finishing the term of Crete Kronquest. The first female president of the Home Builders Association, as well as Road Trek Association, Cleda was active in Altrusa, Chamber Hostesses, and Home Builders Association. They were both members of First Evangelical Lutheran Church where 8 generations have been. For 37 years, Cleda was the Sunday School Treasurer, and Wayne was a member of the Lutheran Church Council.
Expansion - Wayne founded and was board chairman for Dowhower Cabinet and Mill Work Shop and Components Inc. During 1972-1984, they operated Dowhower Construction, Dowhower Cabinet and Mill Work, and Components, Inc., which manufactured trusses and preassembled walls. To keep up with construction demands, they ran two shifts in 1979. In order to meet the demand, they ordered another truss machine. It looked like things were going well and kept them busy.
Downturn – By the time the second truss machine was delivered 6 months later, the economy had slowed down. Over the next three years, the volume of truss manufacturing decreased 50 percent each year, resulting in the sale of the plant. In addition to designing complete house packages, they also fabricated panelized walls. The construction company and the cabinet & millwork shop would take on whatever work was available. Cleda said they would focus more on commercial work once the economy improved, "just one or two jobs at a time".
Wayne’s Health – On November 6th 1984 Wayne lost his 11-year fight with his heart. The year 1984 was filled with hospitalizations and tests, an angioplasty procedure, a heart attack, and open-heart surgery for Wayne. Ultimately, it was a blood clot originating from the heart's pumping chamber. He had a previous aneurysm in his heart that caused the clot to lodge in one of the new bypass grafts. Despite his heart's weakness and fatigue, he managed to work through some of the business issues they were facing. It is a testament to a man's character that he still found time to help his community in spite of his own problems. It was in the building of the Girls Softball Complex. The man kept a cheerful, optimistic outlook despite financial worries that would have shattered a lesser man. The builders will always be able to build. There are times when a heart cannot be rebuilt, however. There comes a time when builders must rest. He was a craftsman who built well.
Softball - After patiently waiting for several months, Wayne finally got the green light to build a field house at the girls' softball complex in North Platte. Getting started was his top priority, and he wasn't kidding. After Mayor Betty Peterson turned over the first shovelful of dirt, Wayne Hiatt and Irving Hiatt were ready to get to work. After thinking it over, they decided to wait until the next morning. Wayne contacted a number of business firms long before a fund drive to raise the $20,000 needed to build the field house was completed. The majority of the building materials were purchased at cost. Masonry contractors, home builders, electricians, plumbers and Mid-Plains Voc-Tech building construction students are among the volunteers who pitched in to make the girls softball complex one of the premier facilities in the state. Wayne spent a lot of time at the site as general supervisor and never complained. “I’ve always had a soft spot for girls’ softball,” he said. Working on city projects is something I enjoy. I am looking forward to this project because it will benefit girls' softball." In mid-January 1985, the Platte Valley Girls Softball Association proposed to the city council that this softball complex be named after Wayne, who helped make it a reality during his last months of life. North Platte City Council approved January 14th, 1985.
Downsized – Cleda preferred to operate behind the scenes, until Wayne became ill, when she became the driving force behind the company. The company moved to 2400 E Railroad Street in 1984. There they worked on getting inventory and displays in place to continue with the Construction Company and Cabinet & Millwork Shop. The company thrived under her leadership and built many homes and businesses. Fast forward to 1990. The company had 14 full-time employees who worked year-round for nine years. The Cabinet & Millwork Shop was sold in 1994. In 1996 the company purchased land at the corner of 6th and McCabe and built the shop, office and living quarters which Cleda would reside in with her husband George McCammon they married on May 28th, 1989.
Passing the Reins - As Cleda relinquished her reins, her daughter and son-in-law, Mark and Dee Luttrell, took over the business during the late 90s. She looked forward to traveling with her husband George McCammon, but she wasn't quite ready to leave the business. When she can no longer shuffle between her home and the office (which is attached to the business), she will retire. “But wait. I’ve got a wheelchair” she said laughing. She was still a major influence on the business even into retirement, still walking into the office each and every day to wish everyone a ‘good morning’. She saw the third generation join the company.
Cleda’s Health – Leading up to June 20th, 2015 Cleda suffered from pain. The 28th of May, her daughter Dee Dowhower Luttrell and granddaughter Kayley Luttrell Powell took her to Kearney to determine what was wrong. The next day, we had no idea she would be taken by ambulance and spend a week in the hospital. Lymphoblastic lymphoma was diagnosed after surgery to remove a tumor from her spine. She became weak so quickly because of this highly aggressive cancer. Several possible cures, pain relief measures, and a series of tests led to the conclusion that she needed to be taken home. When the decision was made to bring her home, Kayley told the doctors and nurses that it would be arranged the same day. Despite being told it would take a couple of days, she was as determined and driven as her grandmother was, and she got everything set up and had her in her home in no time. Her final trip into the office by wheelchair was to say "Good Morning" to all of us a few days before she passed away. She passed away surrounded by her family on Saturday, June 20th, 2015.
Legacy - Wayne and Cleda's legacy lives on forever in North Platte, NE. Wayne and Cleda helped build North Platte and the surrounding area. They have touched every corner of North Platte, from residential to commercial buildings, and spent a lot of time giving back to the community. Currently, the second and third generations are pushing the company forward. There has been a hard time getting members to join the North Platte Home Builders Association they were so committed to. As a result of discussions with the remaining board members, the decision was made to dissolve the association. Funds remaining will be used to establish a scholarship endowment. It was decided to establish the North Platte Home Builders Association Scholarship. As a tribute to all the association members who have served, it continues to be given to the construction industry.