Fifth class inducted into chamber's Business Hall of Fame

By: WEAU 13 News Staff Email
By: WEAU 13 News Staff Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Several business leaders were recognized during a ceremony Thursday afternoon.

The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce inducted its 5th class into its Business Hall of Fame at Florian Gardens.

Among those inducted was the Barland family, who founded the Chippewa Valley Museum, and were involved in banking, law, and politics. Kerm Walker was inducted for his success in retail grocery stores. The late Christian Bertelson received a posthumous honor after building one of the state's biggest accounting firms. So did Andrew and Ivar Walker, who developed the Putnam Heights area.

"The Business Hall of Fame is a way to recognize those people that built the community that we enjoy today,” said Chamber President Bob McCoy. “After 100 years, 125, 150 years, we forget about that, so the Hall of Fame really gives us an opportunity to hear those stories, and go 'wow, without them, we wouldn't have this.'"

The chamber selects business leaders for the hall of fame that make a major impact in the community, and also are entrepreneurial and successful.
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More information on the inductees:

The Barland Family

The Rev. Thomas Barland was one of the first settlers in Eau Claire in the early 1850s. With the help of his wife, Margaret, and eldest son, John, he started Eau Claire's first dairy farm. John married Dora Schlegelmilch, daughter of Augusta and Herman Schlegelmilch. Herman, a German immigrant, was a gunsmith who built and opened a hardware store in one of Eau Claire's first brick buildings. As his business grew, he provided cash loans to his customers. His business eventually evolved into banking, later known as the Union Mortgage Loan Co.

Rev. Barland and Herman Schlegelmilch's family continued to have an impact on the area long after their deaths.
After serving 15 years with the U.S. Army as a civilian engineer, their grandson George Barland moved back to Eau Claire to be with his wife, Lois, and their five children. He took over management of the family's land holdings and downtown properties under the name Barland Agency.

Lois was an avid local historian and author of "Sawdust City: A History of Eau Claire, Wisconsin From the Earliest Times to 1910" and "The River Flows On: A Record of Eau Claire, Wisconsin From 1910-1960." She also was a founder of the Chippewa Valley Museum and developed a farm as a realtor.

George and Lois' children also have had an impact on Eau Claire, including Janet, John and Gordon. In addition, their son, Judge Thomas Barland, began his practice with the Eau Claire law firm of Ramsdell, King and Carroll in 1956. Following a six-year term in the Wisconsin Assembly, he was appointed an Eau Claire County Circuit Court judge in 1967. Judge Barland served on numerous boards and foundations and was named the Wisconsin State Bar Judge of the Year before retiring in 2000. He now serves as a reserve judge and continues to volunteer for numerous organizations.

Christian A. Bertelson (1898-1961)

Christian A. Bertelson was the founder of the C.A. Bertelson Company, which began in the late 1920s in a small office in the Midelfart Clinic Building. As a young accountant, Bertelson worked for the R.J. Sullivan Audit Company in downtown Eau Claire. Then in 1928, he became a partner with Sullivan, and the name was changed to Sullivan-Bertelson Company. In 1936, the firm became known as the C.A. Bertelson Company and later just Bertelson Company.

Bertelson also was very active in the community, having served as president of the Chippewa Valley Boys Scouts Council and Luther Hospital Board of Directors. He also was a member of a number of Masonic bodies, Luther Hospital Advisory Board and Grace Lutheran Church.

Bertelson first joined the Chamber of Commerce in 1929 and became an active member serving as president of its Board of Directors. Through the years, the firm's membership has never lapsed and is still active today.
He and his wife, Mae, had one son, Ken. Bertelson passed away in 1961 at the age of 62.

The firm continued on after his death as Bertelson Company until the merger with Wipfli Ullrich in 1988 to form Wipfli Ullrich Bertelson. Now more than 50 years later, the firm is known simply as Wipfli and is thriving with more than 1,100 team members including more than 100 in the Chippewa Valley.

Andrew and Ivar Walker
(1886-1968) (1895-1976)

In 1915, brothers and Norwegian immigrants Andrew and Ivar Walker started a partnership named Walker Brothers, and in 1934 they purchased the New Dells Lumber Company's main lumberyard. In 1945, the brothers purchased more than 400 acres of field on the top of the State Street hill, which was once used for a landing strip and circus grounds. The brothers named it Putnam Heights. In just a few years, the area boasted 1,400 new homes, multiple churches and a shopping center. Putnam Heights stretched from what is now the top of State Street hill to Hamilton Avenue to Stein Boulevard to Rudolph Road. The brothers donated land for Manz School, and gave the city the land for the fire department as well as two open lots on the corner of MacArthur Avenue and State Street for park area.

Originally, their brothers Tony, Karl, Sam and Palmer all worked for Walker Bro., Inc. After a few years, Andrew and Ivar quit the construction business but remained active in real estate development and in their lumber business. Karl, Sam and Palmer continued in the construction business as the Home Builders and later changed the business name to Walker Construction. Tony also did construction work and owned Tony Walker, Inc.
In addition to their Putnam Heights legacy, both men had a profound impact on Eau Claire.

Andrew, who passed away before the Putnam Heights development was completely finished, was an active backer in the YMCA and prominent in church and civic activities. He and his wife, Martha, had one daughter.

Ivar, who was said to be forthright and outspoken and devoted to his principles, was a founder of Bethesda Lutheran Church and donated the land and lumber for the Church. He served an astounding 40 years on the Church Board, 35 years on District One (which is now Chippewa Valley Technical College), 25 years on the YMCA Board and 16 years on the Luther Hospital Board. He and his first wife, Christina, had four adopted children. After her death, Ivar married Ruth Johnson, and they had two children, Karen and Jim.

Kerm Walker

As an Eau Claire native, Kerm Walker grew up in Shawtown and graduated from Eau Claire High School. He began his career in the grocery business shortly after graduation working at Candell Grocery Store. A few years later, Jerry Tomachek developed Eau Claire's first supermarket, Superway, which was located on Fenwick Avenue. Walker left Candell Grocery Store and rented Superway from Tomachek for 10 years, but he eventually left because the store was too small to be expanded.

Kerm went on to operate numerous other stores throughout Eau Claire including Kerm's Super Foods locations on Starr Avenue and Seymour Road. In 1987, he closed Seymour Road when the first Kerm's Pick'n Save was built on Birch Street. But, the store that he was best known for was Kerm's Super Foods on Water Street, which opened in 1964.

Walker started the Kerm's Gold Cash Register Receipt Program in the 1960s. There were Kerm's receipt boxes in every church and school in Eau Claire. Kerm paid a one percent rebate back for their purchases. That program actually started the Corporate Pick'n Save "We Care" program after the Walker's opened the first Pick'n Save in Eau Claire in 1987.

Kerm also served on the Board of Directors for Luther Hospital, the Wisconsin Association of Food Dealers, the National Food Marketing Institute and First Federal Savings and Loan Association. He was named the Small Business Person of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 1988 and was inducted into the Eau Claire Ski Club Hall of Fame in 2003.


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