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February 8, 2016
Many Caterpillar employees describe their dedication to the company by saying they “bleed yellow,” but the Van Mieghem family is one of the few who have bled yellow for five consecutive generations.
Joe Van Mieghem came to America from Belgium in 1908 before moving the rest of his family in 1911 due to fears of World War I. Initially, they landed in Kansas City, where Joe struggled to find work. He learned about a plant named Holt Manufacturing Co. hiring in Peoria, Illinois, so he uprooted his family again in 1918 and thus began a five-generation family legacy of working for Caterpillar.
Joe had a prosperous 27-year career at Caterpillar, working in the Building KK machine shop. In the late 1930s/early 1940s, his son, Frank, began working for Caterpillar and spent most of his 25-plus-year career as an overhead crane operator at the foundry in Mapleton.
In 1961, Frank’s son, Bill, started his career at Caterpillar right out of high school.
“Growing up, I saw how well Caterpillar treated my father and grandfather, and how well they paid them,” Bill said. “Caterpillar offered a great living and I knew I could raise a family with the compensation I received from them. The overall success that Caterpillar provided for my family growing up made me want to work for them.”
Bill held a wide variety of positions around the company from working in the shop, to foreman and planning the layouts of new facilities.
“During my time with the company, the culture was continuously changing,” he explained. “Working in the parts department, I noticed a big cultural change when the ‘Just In Time’ inventory control processes were put into place. They allowed for more responsibility on the employees’ end and drove overall quality much higher. Throughout my 30-year career, I noticed how Caterpillar and its employees improved on reading and reacting to the industry needs.”
Bill was also active within the Morton Caterpillar All Employees Club and even served as president of the club for several years. He retired after 30 years of service in 1991.
Bill’s daughter-in-law, Kim, started working for Cat Logistics roughly 18 years ago. However, there was a two-year gap between Bill’s retirement and Kim’s hiring, breaking the string of continuity.
Kim’s son, Brennen, a marketing sales representative, is the fifth generation of Van Mieghems to work for Caterpillar.
“Construction has always been an interest of mine,” he said. “When I was younger, I would always scan the job sites we would pass on the highways and check and see if they were using Cat equipment.”
In less than one year with the company, he is already gaining life-changing experience.
“I have gotten to meet individuals from all over the globe. Understanding their culture, as well as comparing and contrasting American culture, is very interesting to me,” Brennen said. “Getting to travel and see new states has also been a neat adventure. I’ve gotten to travel to seven new states in the first seven months of training to become a marketing rep. In many ways, this is a dream come true, as well as an opportunity of a lifetime. Growing up in Peoria, this was the only company I ever wanted to work for. Even in the last seven months, I can really see the company culture changing and taking shape for the future. There is a ton of innovation going on within Caterpillar and I am excited for the years ahead.”
Between all five members of the Van Mieghem family, they have a combined total of over 104 years of service at Caterpillar.
Brennen added, “Caterpillar, in many ways, is solely responsible for my family's ability to survive and thrive here in America. Due to the indebtedness our family has in relation to Caterpillar, I come to work every day looking for ways in which I can improve our business. It truly is an 'American Dream' success story, and because of that I am forever grateful.”