Speeches

I appreciate the opportunity to be here on the Senate floor this morning, and in a sense I'm intruding upon the discussion about unemployment insurance extension, but I want to take just a few minutes to highlight the life of a Kansan who passed in late 2013. At the end of the year I learned of the death of a resident of Parsons, Kansas in the Southeast corner of our state, Sonny Zetmeir. I want to highlight for a moment and pay my respects to him and his family.

The community of Parsons lost one of its greatest champions when Sonny Zetmeir passed away. His humor made an incredible impact on that community. Sonny moved to Parsons, Kansas, from Grand View, Missouri, with his parents in 1965, and along with a company that his family owned that made cabinets. The company was called Grand View Products. He originally agreed with his family to stay in Parsons just for a year to help get the business off the ground in its new location, but his commitment to his family—to his family's business—it just continued to grow and he never left. He went on to purchase the company from his parents when they retired in 1982, and he helped build it into an outstanding cabinet making business that it is today under his leadership. Grand View Products grew from a local small business with 24 employees to a $50 million company with over 400 employees shipping cabinets from coast to coast. Today the company is the largest employer in Parsons and owns a facility in the neighboring community of Cherryville. Sonny's love of business is only rivaled by his love of community. He cared deeply about the health and well-being of his employees and their families.

Through the recession of 2008, he fought hard to keep the company's doors open and to keep as many employees as possible at work. When Grandville Products regained footing, he worked to bring many of the employees back to work and even when he received the devastating cancer diagnosis that would ultimately take his life a few weeks later. Sonny's thoughts immediately went to the well-being of his employees and their families. His wife Sophia relayed this story about just his final weeks. She says his number-one concern was the company and its employees. It wasn't just his employees. It was the families that he was responsible for. Sonny was able to have a meeting with 216 employees. First he announced that they all got a raise so they wouldn't be afraid for their futures. No raises had been given for five years because of the recession. She said that he said, “We're making money now, so everybody can have a raise.” Then he told them who was going to be running which department within the company. Then he told them how sick he was, but his concerns for others and selflessness extended well beyond just that business. He was passionate about Grand View Products being a locally owned company, and he felt a calling to serve the community that it was in through his service.

Over the years Sonny donated cabinets to community projects, churches and schools throughout the Parsons Community. He also encouraged his employees to be charitable in whatever capacity they were able to do. In fact, Sonny was so dedicated to giving back to the local community that he would only buy girl scout cookies from the girl scouts in his home county of Labette and Montgomery county. His services are numerous. They include two terms as Trust of the Community College, six years as Republican County Chairman in Labette County and many years as President of Parsons Community Foundation. Sonny was named Parsons Chamber of Business Person of the year and the Kansas State Employer of the Year in 2003. He received the Kansas Manufacturers Association Appreciation Award in 2007 and in 2008 he was chosen to receive the Cardinal Award by Labette Community College. Since 1945, the Zetmeirs sponsored the fireworks at Marvel Park in Parsons.

I've always believed what we do in the nation's capital is important but the reality is that we change the world one person at a time. So much more is accomplished by a person like Sonny. Sonny Zetmeir has lived the life, and by investing his time and talent and financial support into the community he lived, he made a difference every day. His involvement in the community and selflessness serves as a role model for every American.

Sonny was married to his wife for 51 years and was a devoted father to their three daughters, and I would ask the Senate today to join me in extending our sympathies to Sonny's wife and their family. He was loved by them and will be greatly missed. If one's value in life is determined by whether or not you made a difference while you were here on this earth, Sonny's life was priceless. God bless him, and let him be a role model for all of us.