Local industrialist and philanthropist Lee O. Wiese was honored Wednesday when a bas relief of his image was unveiled as the 29th figure on the Soumas Courtyard Wall of Witnesses.
Wiese joined that august company through a nomination and selection process conducted by Hometown Heritage at the Carnegie Library Museum, which described Wiese as “Perry’s most significant philanthropist of the last 75 years.”
Mike Lickteig of Perry, who ceremonially unveiled the bas relief, spoke movingly of the man and the company he worked for from 1975. Lickteig said since the creation of the Wiese Foundation in 1976, it has donated more than $13 million to its six Perry beneficiaries: Wiese Park, the Perry Lutheran Homes, Dallas County Hospital, Perry Public Library, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church and the Scouts.
“That’s substantial,” Lickteig said. “They made a mark. Lee and his wife, Irene, they loved Perry. They were very generous to Perry.” Irene Wiese died in 1981.
Lee O. Wiese moved to Perry with his family in 1908, at the age of 4. His father, Henry Wiese, was a blacksmith, and young Lee followed his father in the trade, eventually building the Wiese Corp. into a multimillion dollar manufacturing powerhouse in Perry.
Honorary pallbearers at Wiese’s funeral included many notable Perry figures: Richard Salisbury, Charles Stoner, George Gearhart, Harold Phipps, George Soumas, George Armstrong and Dr. L. A. Utterback.
Hometown Heritage at the Carnegie Library Museum Director Bill Clark welcomed the crowd to Wednesday’s unveiling and gave some history of and inspiration for the Wall of Witnesses, which was founded by Roberta Green Ahmanson at the time of the Hotel Pattee’s restoration in the mid-1990s.
Perry Public Library Director Mary Murphy briefly described her gratefulness to the Wiese Foundation for the beautiful library facility, which opened in 1994, and for the many programming opportunities made possible by the foundation grants.
Gary Becker of Perry joined Lickteig in recounting stories, sometimes humorous, about Lee Wiese and his time in Perry.
Rick Stewart of Newton, who has sculpted several of the Wall of Witnesses bas reliefs, described the challenges and rewards of the Wiese art project. The free event was followed by light refreshments in the Soumas Courtyard.