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Graef founder dies at 86

Sean Ryan
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Robert Schloemer, one of the three founders of Graef, died Monday and was buried Friday.
Schloemer, 86, died of a stroke. A private funeral was held Thursday.

A structural engineer, Schloemer teamed up with Leonard Anhalt and Luther Graef in 1961 to found the Milwaukee-based company then called Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer & Associates Inc. The trio built it into a firm with more than 300 employees.

“(Schloemer) was a very good organizer, and it took straightforward thinking and it took a lot of confidence, since all three of us had just about nine years of experience,” Anhalt said. “We felt nine years experience was enough to do structural engineering. We were a bit naive and gutsy to think nine years was enough.”

Anhalt, who does not have a structural engineering degree, said Schloemer and Graef were the smart ones.

Anhalt, who was the company’s first president, handled business operations.

“(Schloemer) was not the kind of person who would easily go out and beat the drums and brag about what he had done, what we could do,” Anhalt said. “He was more reserved than that. And because Lou and Bob were both smarter than me, I had to go out and beat the drums.”

Anhalt’s position as the company marketer led to Schloemer’s name appearing last in the company name.

“Bob and Lou did not want it to be looking like it was an Anhalt firm, so my name first was eliminated by the two of them,” Anhalt said. “The other option was Schloemer, Anhalt and Graef, and that would’ve spelled out SAG, and SAG structural engineers just wasn’t going to go.”

Schloemer retired in 1986, but was active in the Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer Scholarship Foundation. The foundation gives scholarships to civil engineering students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UW-Madison and Marquette University.

Graef’s president, Rich Bub, said Schloemer was Bub’s project manager when he joined the firm in 1977. Bub said Schloemer was soft-spoken and often pointed out problems in building designs.

“His communication style was such that, I won’t even say correcting mistakes,” Bub said. “It was being able to observe the way you were going was such a way that you’d have to redo the design.”

Schloemer was married to the late Bernice, and had two brothers, Leonard and the late Walter.

“He was not blessed to have children,” Anhalt said. “He looked at these people in our firm, these young folks, as his family, and he treated them that way. So he got his kicks and his satisfaction from watching this firm grow.”

Memorials for Schloemer can be sent to St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church or the Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer Scholarship Foundation at 125 S. 84th St., Suite 401, Milwaukee.

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