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Remembering developer, philanthropist Ken Seigel

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Submitted photo
Ken Siegel went from learning carpentry at the age of 15 to starting up his own construction company. The businessman, developer and philanthropist died from leukemia on Oct. 25 at the age of 85.

Submitted photo Ken Siegel went from learning carpentry at the age of 15 to starting up his own construction company. The businessman, developer and philanthropist died from leukemia on Oct. 25 at the age of 85.

The city has lost one of its most innovative and experienced business leaders with the passing of Ken Seigel.

The entrepreneur, developer and philanthropist who founded K and L Seigel Enterprises of Pembroke Limited died on Oct. 25 at the Pembroke Regional Hospital. He was 85.

Born and raised in Pembroke, Seigel attended Westward School on Mary Street and graduated with a Grade 8 diploma. Tragedy struck his family when he was 12 years old. His father, Wesley, was bicycling to Melton's Flowers to buy a Christmas gift for Seigel's mother, Esther, when he was struck by a drunk driver. Hospitalized with a broken pelvis, Wesley succumbed to a blood clot on New Year's Day.

Although his mother worked at a bakery, it wasn't enough to make ends meet so Seigel began delivering newspapers and making grocery deliveries for his neighbours using a little red wagon. His customers paid him a nickel or a dime for his services.

“Ken had to do what he could so the family could survive,” said Lois Seigel, his wife of 57 years. “He would do odd jobs.”

When he was 15, Seigel went to work for his uncle Louis Markus, who owned a construction company. He soon discovered he had a gift for carpentry and began roofing and building homes for family members (a descendent of the family did the masonry on the original Parliament Buildings in Ottawa). His was also employed at Camp Petawawa before taking the supervisor's job at the former Shook Mills in Pembroke.

He married Lois Holtz in 1960 and shortly thereafter started up his first company, Ken Seigel Home Improvements, which later became K and L Seigel Enterprises (also known as Ken Seigel and Sons Construction). Over the next few decades, Seigel began buying up lots and building several hundred homes throughout the area.

“His reputation grew because he did such excellent work,” added Lois. “He had a really good business sense.”

In Petawawa, he developed subdivisions in Briarwood, Spruce Street, Oak Avenue and Edith Street. His most recent project was the $1 million Bell Street development, a 29-lot subdivision in the city's east end. He also built a series of townhouses on Noik Drive, as well as a six-unit townhouse on Bell Street that was innovative in introducing accessibility for disabled tenants. His business garnered numerous accolades over the years including the Ontario New Home Warrant Service Excellence Award. It was also a finalist for the Tarion Award of Excellence for small volume builder.

“He was very common sense and had a good business mind which is a rare combination,” said Pembroke's manager of planning and building Colleen Sauriol. “He was able to see things for development that we couldn't see.”

Widely respected and admired by the city and the business community, Seigel effectively worked with successive councils. Mayor Mike LeMay said he enjoyed his conversations with Seigel adding the builder had the city's best interests at heart. He was also a devoted historian well versed in the growth of Pembroke who enjoyed assisting organizations looking for background information.

“He was a very nice gentleman and a good man,” said LeMay.

Ken and Lois Seigel supported many charities over the years purchasing furniture for churches in the Dominican Republic, as well as a greenhouse for people with illnesses. They supported missionaries in Guatemala, the construction of three churches in east Asia and the building of a factory in India for the manufacturing of bio-sand water filters. The couple also sponsored four children living in India.

Ken Seigel is survived by wife, Lois, children, Charles, Peter, Douglas and Nancy, and grandchildren Mark, Christopher, Joel, Jonathan and Nicholas. Funeral services were held last Monday at Calvary Baptist Church followed by interment at Laurentian View Cemetery.

SChase@postmedia.com