TRAVERSE CITY — Wayne Webber relaunched his small concrete business with a $2,200 used pickup truck after returning home from a peace-keeping mission in Korea.
He had all he needed: an eighth-grade education and a natural talent to lay concrete.
“Before I bought my pickup truck and before Korea, I went to work for a cement contractor,” Webber said. “And I learned the trade right there. I fell in love with concrete. It came easy for me. It’s all about setting forms.”
Webber eventually partnered with a childhood friend, and their company flourished as they launched into massive construction projects such as highways, airport runways and bridges.
Wayne and Joan Webber were in town late last week for a ribbon-cutting of Munson Medical Center’s Webber Heart Center.
Their foundation donated $8 million in February to support cardiac programs and technology for the hospital’s 127-bed heart center, named for the couple. Munson announced it was the largest single donation in hospital history.
The donation makes it possible for area residents to receive cardiac care in Traverse City instead of going out of town, said Munson Healthcare Foundation’s Ruth Bloomer.
“When we started talking with the Webbers, they wanted to know what needs we had,” Bloomer said. “We had built the heart center, but there were still programs and equipment, and still so much we wanted to do. A big concern of theirs was access to care. They didn’t want people to have to travel a great distance to get the care they needed.”
Their donation has also made cardiac care in the outlying rural areas possible, she said.
Webber, 80, bought out his business partner, Earl Champagne, in 1991 and sold W.W. Webber Inc. in 2005. He continues to work, but the couple’s main focus is philanthropy through the Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation. They’re involved in a wide range of projects, from building a cancer center for St. John Macomb Hospital in Warren to giving Benzie County kids warm weather gear.