A.Y. McDonald celebrated its 150th anniversary in grand fashion last month with a private reception at the Grand River Center for nearly 1,000 of the company’s employees, retirees, customers, vendors, local dignataries and family. The soiree took nearly two years to plan and the A.Y. McDonald management team was extremely pleased with the result.
“The evening was fantastic. To celebrate 150 years like this, it couldn’t have gone any better,” said Rob McDonald, vice president-sales for A.Y. McDonald. “Capping off the dinner and cocktail reception was the stand-up comedy routine of Jay Leno from The Tonight Show. Jay was such a good sport that he stuck around to announce raffle winners of prizes, which gave the excited winners an opportunity to meet the talk show host.”
Planning for the 150th anniversary started in October 2003. A Core Committee was comprised of 11 people from all areas of the company, including four fifth-generation family members and seven long-term employees:
On the day of the event, the ballroom at the Grand River Center was very elegantly decorated with vibrant fall fresh cut flower arrangements, hurricane lamps, candlelight and an ice sculpture carved in the shape of A.Y. McDonald’s 150th anniversary logo. The hurricane lamps were unique because the base was a brass part manufactured in A.Y. McDonald’s plant and assembled with a chimney. Gold diamond logos and glittering stars suspended from the ceiling added another dimension to the room.
The evening started with cocktails and a wide array of hors d’oeuvres from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Dinner followed with a menu consisting of a mixed green salad, beef filet with Bearnaise sauce and chicken breast with Proscuitto ham topped with Provalone cheese and Mornay sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, bean/carrot medley, dinner rolls and decadent desserts of chocolate molten cake and Granny apple pie.
Following dinner, the fifth-generation family members delivered brief comments on varying topics. The audience was spellbound with the debut of a 15-minute historical video that set the tone for the evening. The video highlighted the life of A.Y. McDonald’s founder, the establishment of A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co., and its progress to date.
Jay Leno, the host of The Tonight Show, entertained the audience with over an hour of hilarious stand-up comedy. Leno, dressed in a black tuxedo, paced back and forth across the stage, microphone in hand, firing jokes in his signature staccato style.
Following his routine, Leno very graciously accepted the company’s invitation to draw winners’ names in the raffle. The names of all attending employees were put into a hopper for the drawing. The lucky winners of five grand prize give-aways were:
To wrap up the evening, the audience was brought to their feet with the up-beat antics of professional dueling pianists.
Each attendee received a wine glass etched with A.Y. McDonald’s 150th logo -- which they had raised for a toast earlier in the evening. A presentation gift bag with a bottle of Stonecliff Merlot wine was given to each employee.
Among the special guests at the celebration were chairman Henry Longley and president Emily Longley of long-time A.Y. McDonald customer Longley Supply. They made the trip to Dubuque from Wilmington, N.C., to join in the festivities. As Mike McDonald put it, “The Longley family has been writing checks to our family for longer than anyone else!” In fact, the Longley family has been doing business with A.Y. McDonald for about 80 years. Longley Supply just recently marked their 100th anniversary, and invited Mike and Rob McDonald as guests of honor to their celebration in July.
Also as part of the 150th celebration, Water Works Park on the Hawthorne Peninsula in Dubuque was renamed A.Y. McDonald Park in honor of the company’s founder, Andrew Young McDonald. A dedication ceremony was held September 15 to unveil a bronze monument that tells the story of Andrew Young McDonald, one of the earliest settlers of Dubuque. This revitalized park on the banks of the Mississippi River includes many new amenities such as a fishing pier, restrooms, playground equipment and a bike trail.
Many dignitaries were in attendance including Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol, several city council members, county supervisors, and city department managers. Employees and friends of A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co. were also in attendance. Rob McDonald emceed the ceremony, which included speeches from president/ceo Mike McDonald, chairman John McDonald III and the mayor.
As previously announced, A.Y. McDonald is putting together a time capsule to be sealed and reopened at the company’s 200th anniversary in 2056. The company has received many ideas and have compiled an initial list of items to be included in this unique gift to future employees.
From one grows many
Firmly grounded as a family-based company, its current leadership embraces the long-ago words of founder A.Y. McDonald: “I’ve started it, and you can take it as far as you want to go.” Little did Andrew Young McDonald know when he made this statement over 125 years ago, that his small family owned company would remain family owned and grow to become a national industry leader 150 years later.
Considering the continuous ownership and management by one family for 150 years, together with its size and scope of operations, A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co. is a truly unique company. Based in Dubuque since 1856, when A.Y. McDonald started his own plumbing business, the company now employs more than 375 in its brass foundry, manufacturing plant and corporate offices. The company is a national player in several markets manufacturing water works service line brass; plumbing valves and fittings; pumps and water systems; and high-pressure gas valves and meter bars.
The fifth generation of McDonald family members leads the company today and carries on the Scottish-born immigrant’s entrepreneurial spirit and pride in being an American manufacturer. “Our blueprint for success has come from working smart and working hard for the past 150 years,” noted Mike McDonald. “We are incredibly proud to be able to say that our ancestor had a dream and we are living it today. That dream is fueled by our true commitment to quality products, fair pricing and quality people making it happen.”
He went on to note, “Our history is a slice of Americana. A.Y. was quite a man, as we have learned from the stories told by my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His desire to succeed is something that we carry with us today. Our marketplace continues to shrink as our competitors either merge or go out of business. We are extremely proud to remain an Iowa company with McDonald blood in our veins, and we owe that to the work ethic of the hundreds of employees who have been part of this company for 150 years.”
In addition to its Dubuque facility, A.Y. McDonald has manufacturing and/or distribution facilities in Albia, Iowa; Elizabethton, Tenn.; and Sparks, Nev. A sales force of more than 25 representatives covers the U.S. selling primarily to wholesale distributors, municipalities and natural gas utilities. End users of A.Y. McDonald products include underground contractors, plumbers, municipalities and well drillers.
A special history book and video are under development to commemorate A.Y. McDonald’s 150th anniversary. To learn more, visit www.aymcdonald.com.
Behind the scenes at A.Y. McDonald’s 150th anniversary celebration
Company officials originally asked Jay Leno’s agent if he would agree to participate in the prize drawing and were told “No.” Following Leno’s performance, Mike McDonald ran backstage to thank him and mentioned that a prize drawing was going to be done. Leno responded, “Need some help?” He came back onstage and spent another 15 minutes conducting the prize drawing to everyone’s enjoyment. ...
Leno came to Dubuque on a private plane with two pilots who stayed at the airport. Company officials notified Leno’s management that a limousine would pick him up at the airport. Their reply was, “Jay doesn’t need a limousine, he just needs a ride.” ...
In this day and age of spoiled celebrities, everyone has heard about outlandish requests stars make for their dressing room and what items to have on hand like shrimp cocktail, Dom Perignon champagne, and only certain colors of M&M’s. Not Jay Leno. His contract simply states that he wants three bottles of water and no alcoholic beverages. ...
Prior to the Leno performance, Mike McDonald met with him backstage to present a check for the “final payment” for his services. Leno said thanks and put the check in his back pocket without even looking at the amount. ...
Leno signed over 30 A.Y. McDonald “150” hats that were left in his dressing room by Rob McDonald. These hats will be given out at special occasions to vips and one will be placed in the time capsule to be opened in 2056. Leno also signed the leather couch and chair in his dressing room that was provided by The Floor Show. The company arranged to purchase this furniture, which is currently on display outside the late R.D. McDonald’s office. This area will be decorated with pictures and mementos that commemorate the 150th anniversary of the company. ...
At the “meet and greet” for select employees with Leno after the performance, he walked in the room having already changed from his tuxedo into his trademark blue jeans and denim shirt, and carrying his own travel bag. A line had formed and after arriving at his designated place, Leno told employees, “Come to Santa!” He signed every item presented to him -- from a baseball to a Harley Davidson shirt to a Tonight Show cap. One employee even requested Leno leave a voicemail for a friend and handed him a cell phone -- and Leno graciously complied.
Robert D. McDonald, 1931-2006
Robert Delos “R.D.” McDonald died peacefully in his sleep on September 2 after an extended illness. McDonald, 75, was part of the fourth generation of his family to lead A.Y. McDonald Mfg Co. in Dubuque Iowa, and died just weeks before the company’s 150th anniversary celebration.
R.D. McDonald served as president, ceo and board chairman from 1985 to 1995, and continued as chairman until his retirement in 2003. He was chairman emeritus at the time of his death.
Known as much for his sense of humor and approachability as he was for his business prowess, McDonald’s family said many people will miss him.
“He was so down to earth,” said his son, Robert McDonald II, A.Y. McDonald’s vice president-sales. “It didn’t matter if he was sitting down with a fellow employee or the governor, Dad was the same person in both conversations.” He added that faith and family took priority over all things in his father’s life.
Since his illness, employees have asked about R.D. McDonald and expressed how much they missed seeing him walk through the factory and visit with people. Upon hearing of his death, some employees wept openly at the loss of not only a company leader but a friend.
Rob McDonald noted that his father often told him to try to make the company “better for the next generation than it was for you,” a motto R.D. McDonald lived and worked by. Much of the company’s success is owed to R.D. McDonald, who worked hard to develop a management team capable to taking the business to the next level.
McDonald was born January 30, 1931, to Delos Lyon and Virginia (Kolck) McDonald. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics and then enlisted in the Navy, serving in the Pacific Theatre during the Korean War as a Lieutenant J.G.
Following service to his country, McDonald returned to Dubuque to work for A.Y. McDonald. He served in numerous capacities throughout his 50-year career.
In addition, McDonald contributed greatly to many community projects, served on many boards and was a trustee of the Iowa Historical Society.
He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, children Jean Burgmeier, Trish McDonald, Maria (Earl) Bradley, Sharon (Jimmy) Lindsey and Robert (Leann) McDonald II; stepchildren Kimberly (Robert) Racanelli and Theresa (Michael) Jared; and 15 grandchildren.
Services were held September 5 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubuque, followed by graveside services and military rites. Memorials may be given in memory of R.D. McDonald to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dubuque or the Stonehill Benevolent Foundation.