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After career spanning more than 40 years, contractor retires

January 1, 2019

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — Decades after coming home from Vietnam, a West Virginia native and WVU graduate used his experiences from childhood and service overseas to write a novel.

He spent many of his days working at May Brothers, a contracting company started in 1917, and he stayed with it throughout much of his life.

“I think he was 16 when he started working here,” Gary Hibbs, an employee and friend of Heiskell, said. “I’ve been here 38 years; Mark has been here just a little bit longer than I have, he started young.”

After working with Mark for such a long time, Hibbs is saddened by his friend’s recent retirement, as his leadership to the company has been a constant for decades.

“He knew everything about this place,” Hibbs said. “It’s going to be rough, he knows a whole lot more than anyone else here. If you needed something done or fixed, he knew how to do it. I’m going to miss him for a while, he was almost like a brother to me.”

It was Mark’s grandfather, Okey May, who was one of the founders of the company with his brother. May’s daughter, Mildred Heiskell, also got involved in the company, and still drops in at the company, almost daily, to assist in the transition of ownership, which took place over the past year.

Mike Staud and Ronnie Nichols purchased the May Brothers company in 2017 and said the work of Mark and Mildred has made the company a pillar of the community, and their influence will most likely be felt well into the future.

“This company has been run by the May Brothers and the Heiskell family for 100 years,” Staud said. “May Brothers is a brand name in Fairmont — people recognize the name partially because of the family that owned it, but also because of its longevity.”

According to Staud, the transitional phase in which the company changed hands was made easier through the help of Mark and Mildred, and Mark’s continued work has been hugely valuable, with Staud even learning to mix concrete through his teaching.

“Mark was very instrumental in making a smooth transition for Ronnie and I to take over,” Staud said. “When Mark would go out on a job, not only was he there delivering the concrete, a lot of times he would jump in and help with the labor, in pouring the concrete — which is not his job, just in his nature.”

“What I would say about Mark is that he has integrity,” said Melissa Lenhart, an administrator for Staud and Nichols. “What I really appreciate about him is although his family sold the company last August, he stuck around and made sure the company was actually able to flourish, and that’s when he felt safe enough to retire. I really appreciate him for that.”

Others had worked with Mark for a number of years and commented on his willingness to help while in the field on a job. His assistance in the field will be sorely missed by those who benefitted from it.

“Mark was a go-getter,” John Kisner, a four-year employee, said. “We’re kind of spoiled because we unintentionally kind of expect other drivers to be as good as Mark was, and they’re just not as fast.

“He’s done it so long he could do it in his sleep.”

Some knew Mark before they worked at May Brothers, as he was always going to jobs or making deliveries on behalf of the company.

“I worked in the coal mines in the supply yard,” Jim Patrick, a five-year employee of May Brothers said. “Mark was the main driver who brought material to us in the mines. Not saying that the other drivers didn’t, but Mark was there more than anybody else, so that’s how I started out knowing May Brothers.”

Taking the reins of May Brothers just in the past year, Staud commented on the legacy that he and Nichols have taken up, and the words of others upon hearing of Mark’s retirement.

“As I go out on jobs, Mark Heiskell’s name comes up, and he will be missed greatly,” Staud said. “Quite honestly, he served his community, he served his community well. I know it’s a business, but he took care of people.”

Although Mark has officially retired from the company, some of the workers don’t think that will be the last they see of him, as Mark’s care for May Brothers and the people who make up its staff goes beyond the workday.

“For him, I don’t think he’s going to retire,” Hibbs said. “He will always be doing something else.”

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Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com