David Ash enjoys 85 years of life and 50 years in business
By Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (March 2, 2022) – David Ash was greeted with a surprise upon arriving at work on Monday, February 28. His daughter, Allison Ash, had the lawn in front of his company, Kingery Steel Fabricators, located 16895 Chicago Avenue in Lansing, decorated with a large sign announcing that it was his 85th birthday. Technically, he was 85 years and one day old, having celebrated his birthday the day before.
His plans on Monday evening included dinner out with friends. He said he’d been celebrating and “dinnering” for the past week.
In addition to hitting the 85-year age marker, Ash’s business will celebrate a milestone this year — 50 years under his ownership.
A half century in business
In 1972, Ash purchased Kingery Steel Fabricators with a partner. “We’ve grown from a small operation to a fairly large steel supplier in the Chicago area,” said Ash, who grew up on the northwest side of Chicago.
After graduating from Weber High School in Chicago, he attended the University of Illinois where he studied architectural engineering. From college he went to work for one steel company — and then another.
“I had worked for two other steel companies and always wanted my own businesses, so I proceeded to buy this business,” he said of Kingery Steel. “We fabricate steel for building frames. I call them big erector sets. And we do the contracting of the installation of the material.”
Some of the larger projects over Ash’s 50 years have included high-rise work in the Chicago area.
“We have done work out of state, but there’s so much work here in Chicago that it’s not necessary to go out of state,” he said.
Ash estimates that the company’s projects total around 2,500 buildings. The average project takes about six months to complete, with the exception of unusual projects that are much more complex, like Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago, which took about 18 months.
Tribune Tower was one of Ash’s favorite projects during his five decades. Others include the steel mill building at Finkel Forging at 95th and Stony Island and the London House Hotel in Chicago. Ash said these projects were favorites because he liked the challenges of the fabrication.
“We were tying into existing buildings and the installation of them was quite difficult,” he said.
The Kingery Steel Fabricators team
Kingery Steel currently has 24 employees, which include Ash’s son-in-law in accounting and his daughter, who he said came on about four months ago to work as the office manager in a role her late mother previously held.
Patty Yackanich of Hammond retired after 25 years working at Kingery Steel Fabricators. Her mother worked there even longer, starting with the company before Ash’s ownership.
Yackanich said that Ash had a big impact on her life. She stopped by the office on Monday to wish him a happy birthday and bring him his favorite cake — carrot cake. She first made him one for his 50th birthday and has done so for many birthdays in-between 50 and 85.
“He taught me about money, loved my kids, hired my husband when the people [my husband] worked for closed, came to every family wedding. In other words, he’s been part of nearly my entire life,” she said. “He changed my life in so many ways. I owe him so much more than he could ever know.”
Ash also shares his office with a parakeet named Pamela and a cat named Mittens.
No slowing down at Kingery Steel Fabricators
At 23 years beyond the average American retirement age of 62, Ash continues making his way into work every day from his home in Elmhurst. He enjoys working a full-time schedule and has no plans to scale back.
“It keeps me healthy,” he said. “It keeps my thoughts working.”
Looking to the future
These days, Kingery Steel Fabricators is as busy as ever.
“It’s very busy, probably the busiest right now that it has been in the 50 years. Maybe that’s why I’m still here,” he said. “It’s more scientific now, the business is. Everybody seems to be very intact with what exactly is occurring in the process of the building.”
Ash even revisited some worksites where he is rebuilding structures he worked on years ago.
“I’ve been around so long that I’m working on buildings that I put up and have been torn down and I’m rebuilding them,” he said. “We recently finished the Hinsdale Intermediate School, which we had done in 1972 and then re-did two years ago.”
Kingery Steel is currently working on a building for a company that produces electric trucks: “First we put up the building, which was about a million square-feet. We fabricated and put it up and we’re now doing the finishing work inside, which is almost as much as the building was,” he said. Another current project is a school being built in Frankfort.
As he celebrates 85 years of life, Ash plans to keep heading to work each day and doing more of what he’s always done. When he has time away from the business, he plays golf, fishes, and plays cards and billiards. He has a daughter, a son, and four grandsons.
Kingery Steel Fabricators is located at 16895 Chicago Avenue in Lansing.
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