Downriver Resident Retires at Age 90!
This Downriver resident is this month's Hometown Hero. He is the epitome of work ethic!
By Char Haener
Most people plan on working for 30 years until they retire. Imagine working another 42 years on top of that! Our Hometown Hero, Bill Neubecker, officially retired in 2019 after 72 years in the workforce right here Downriver. Or did he?
Bill Neubecker has had a very interesting and full life, both personally and professionally. He was born in Detroit in 1929 but moved Downriver with his family in 1939 to Rockwood. The family then moved to Trenton in 1946, and Bill graduated from Trenton High School in 1947. He attended Lawrence Tech for a while but eventually decided to just focus on work.
Mr. Neubecker began his career in home repair and remodeling in 1947 when his father bought a roofing and siding business in Wyandotte. He recalls stuffing his pockets with nails, putting his hammer in his tool belt, hoisting a load of shingles on his shoulder, and climbing a ladder to the roof. The shingles were nailed in place and down he went for the next batch. Back then there were only a couple of other roofing companies in the area and no machinery to stack shingles on the roof. Times certainly have changed! His father’s business evolved into a hardware store as well but it was eventually sold and his father retired. Bill remained in the roofing and siding industry as he became established.
In 1949, Bill got married and started his own family. He and his wife of 57-1/2 years raised 13 children together! They moved to Flat Rock in 1952 and then to a 4-acre farm in Brownstown in 1960 where he remained until 2019. Sadly, one of his daughters succumbed to a long battle with cancer a couple of years before his wife, an invalid for 8 years, passed away.
While busy caring for a large family and operating a successful roofing and siding business, Mr. Neubecker gradually added investment properties to his portfolio. At one time he owned 20 units and did most of the maintenance himself! He also obtained his real estate license and was an officer in a professional organization. Not to neglect the community, Bill was active in his church and has been in the Knights of Columbus since 1948. He was a member of the Kiwanis Clubs in Woodhaven, Brownstown and Riverview, and the Southern Wayne Regional Chamber of Commerce.
During a very long life and career, there are bound to be experiences that stand out. One of the most memorable roofing jobs Mr. Neubecker did was on Mackinac Island. He was talking to a friend at church about the house. He ordered the supplies he thought he would need, loaded everything up on a stake truck, and off they went. Everything had to be unloaded at the dock onto the ferry boat, then transported by horse-drawn freight wagon to the job site. The whole deal was accomplished without even an estimate, just the trust that a fair price would be charged for a job well done.
Mr. Neubecker’s business philosophy is, “The customer is always right. You’re paying me to do a job and it’s my responsibility to do it right.” A lot of his customers have come from Home Advisor, where he has great reviews. He has this advice for consumers: “Don’t fall for high-pressure sales pitches, get a fair price.”
Switching gears about 10 years ago, Bill founded a new company, Comfort Zone Insulation. After all, since he was in his 80s, climbing up on roofs was not as appealing as it used to be! He also started doing power washing 3 years ago but let his employees do the work while he did the scheduling. According to Bill, “If you’re going to be in business you have to have good employees. I paid them well and they performed for me well. You need reliable people.”
With all of that climbing and carrying, it is no wonder that Bill finally needed hip surgery. Remarried, he is now recovering with his wife in their new home in Salem Township near some of her 6 children. Mr. Neubecker will be 91 years old in April. If he feels well enough, he might do a bit of power washing when the weather breaks. Retired? We shall see!