Walk through downtown Minneapolis and Vetter limestone is visible in building after building.
Target Field. The Farmers and Mechanics Bank, Wells Fargo and Young Quinlan buildings. Target headquarters. University of St. Thomas. The hardness and color of the limestone can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Howard Vetter took a small quarry near Mankato founded by his father in 1954 and guided it into a stone business whose buildings stand across the world. At age 85, he was working up to a few days before his death from congestive heart failure April 5.
“If a person is able to do it and doesn’t, he doesn’t have much to complain about,” Howard Vetter used to tell his son Ron, who is now president of Vetter Stone. “If you have a problem, fix it.”
Vetter was raised in Kasota and went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout, earning a degree in industrial engineering. His father owned a small monument business, and he bought some land where the limestone quarry now stands in hopes his children would want to get into the stone business.
Several of his children did join the business, taking on their father’s philosophy of excellent customer service. Little by little, the Vetters bought small stone businesses in the Mankato area.
Besides the company’s local presence, Vetter Stone can be seen in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and shopping malls in Taiwan and Japan. Other U.S. buildings include the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.; Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.; Minnesota Senate offices; the state’s FBI headquarters in Brooklyn Center; and the Vetter Stone Amphitheater in Mankato.
Ron Vetter said their limestone has a warm and inviting cream color. It’s very hard, allowing large pieces to be cut for buildings.
The family also owns a limestone business in Alabama. Howard Vetter retired in 2000, but he continued to work several days a week.
Howard Vetter was very civic-minded, and didn’t think it was anything special to give something back to the community, said his son. He was the first civic president of the Mankato Jaycees in 1962. The next year, he was elected to the North Mankato City Council. He was appointed mayor in 1966, elected to a full term and then quit politics in 1969.
He served on the boards of the YMCA, Mankato Human Rights Commission, an area Boy Scouts troop, Region Nine Development Commission, Mankato Rehabilitation Center, Holy Rosary Church and Mankato Area Chamber of Commerce.
Vetter’s son used to joke with him that something must have been wrong with his house because he was never home. In 1996, he trained for a year before hiking in the Arctic. Four years later, he trained for another year in preparation for climbing Mount Everest.
“He was always active and loved to learn,” his son said.
Vetter is survived by his special friend, Diane Brennan; children, Ron; Bob, of Lake Washington; Teresa, of North Mankato; Donn, of Mankato; and Mary Vetter Benedict, of Lilydale; and a brother, Willard, of Mankato. Services have been held.