Bill Grewcock never stopped building.
And it’s a good thing.
The former head of construction and mining at Kiewit Corp., who died Saturday at age 93, turned his attention to philanthropy, conservation and the state’s natural resources after he retired from the Omaha-based construction company.
“Those things that were important to him, he committed to,” said his son Bruce Grewcock. “He was a great dad to my brother and me. He was a pretty basic, simple sort of guy. A classic Midwesterner.”
Those who knew him personally and knew of his good deeds said that Grewcock only occasionally consented to have the family name attached to structures. But the work of the Bill and Berniece Grewcock Foundation was still there, from the state-of-the-art animal shelter being built at the Nebraska Humane Society to the ice rink and equestrian center at Mahoney State Park. Thousands of Nebraskans have benefited from the half-price youth lifetime hunting-fishing permits that he conceived and helped fund.
“Bill Grewcock was ... an extremely passionate, wise and generous person and a champion of conservation who will be greatly missed,” said Jim Douglas, director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
In addition to donating, usually anonymously, to projects and programs around the state, Grewcock served on both the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Game and Parks Foundation.
He wasn’t one to sit around a board room, though. He put his construction skills to work on his own property — a ranch along the Niobrara River and a farm in western Douglas County. At both places, he worked to create better habitat for wildlife, said Roger Kuhn, assistant director of Game and Parks.
“He practiced conservation on a personal side, and it carried over into a public setting,” Kuhn said. Improvements at his ranch and a cold-water creek there brought elk back and enhanced habitat for trout.
On his Douglas County farm, he improved habitat for waterfowl and pheasants, making sure to plant crops and provide cover that would allow wildlife to survive Nebraska’s harsh winters.
Both his sons, Bruce and Doug, picked up their father’s love of the outdoors. Grewcock’s devotion to conservation and hunting were intertwined, son Bruce said.
“He believed that hunters were the best conservationists,” Bruce said.
Grewcock was direct and to the point.
“He was a very genuine guy. He could be pretty tough, but he had a heart of gold,” Kuhn said. “He meant a lot to a lot of people.”
Walter Scott, former chief executive officer of Kiewit, said Grewcock was the person he turned to, time and again, when they were managing the company in the 1980s.
“He was the one person I looked to to help me in most everything I did,” Scott said. “He was probably the best construction man I ever ran into.”
Scott, and the man who followed him, Ken Stinson, described the former Kiewit executive as notable for his directness.
“You didn’t have to ask him what he meant by what he said,” Stinson said.
In spite of his tough demeanor, Grewcock was intent on cultivating the talent of others, Stinson said.
“He instilled in all of us our obligation to help the people who worked for us — to prepare them to advance,” Stinson said.
Grewcock’s two sons followed him into the business. Doug is retired from Kiewit Engineering Co.
Bruce continues as Kiewit’s chairman and chief executive officer.
Doug Grewcock said his father instilled in him the legendary Kiewit work ethic — be the first one to the job site and the last one to leave. And while his father was gone a lot because of work, he was fully present with his family when he was home.
“When he was in town, he didn’t go out and play golf or do those sorts of things. He spent time with us whenever he could.”
In addition to his sons, he is survived by his wife of 70 years, Berniece, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.