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In memory of Terry Forsberg

Posted: 11:41 AM, Jan 12, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-12 11:41:00-05

Terry Forsberg spent most of his career building roads and installing underground utilities.

His construction company T.A. Forsberg, Inc., widened U.S. 127 north of Lake Lansing Road and did the utilities and grading for the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City.

He would later switch his focus to housing development, eventually building roughly 1,000 homes in Greater Lansing, including Ponderosa Estate in Okemos, Dimondale Estates in Dimondale and Upton Woods in Grand Ledge.

"What he did was what America was all about," said his son Ken Forsberg. "He started out with little to nothing and, through hard work, he made a better life for himself."

Forsberg, of Okemos, died on Dec. 23 of congenital heart failure. He was 86.

Forsberg grew up on a potato farm near Tustin in Osceola County. After graduating high school, he sold magazines across the country. In 1950, he married Beulah Strayer from Williamston and settled in the Lansing area.

"He was a ball of energy," said his grandson Brent Forsberg, president of T.A. Forsberg. "If he was awake, he was always doing something. Even getting toward retirement in his 70s, he was trying to invent construction equipment and writing songs."

Forsberg started his construction business in the early 1950s after helping his brothers, Bob and Jay, build homes in the Lansing area. In the late 1950s, he built a ready mix concrete plant on Sunset Avenue to sell to other builders. Some of the sidewalks on Michigan Avenue still bear a stamp of his name.

In the 1960s, the company won contracts from the Michigan Department of Transportation to widen and pave highways.

While working on underground utilities, Forsberg decided to commercially produce trench boxes, which prevent cave-ins and worker deaths. During the '60s and '70s, most trench boxes were built on the job, then disposed of. In 1971, he started Efficiency Production, Inc., which is now headquartered in Mason and sells trench boxes in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia.

"He took it to the next level," Ken Forsberg said, who is president and CEO of Efficiency Production. "This helps keep workers safe and drives the cost down. My dad was always thinking about cutting costs and finding more ways to increase production."

During the recession in the 1980s, Forsberg started working in Florida with Richard Wendorf and Ronald Judson, creating T.A. Forsberg of Florida. He was also president of the Michigan Road Builders Association in 1990.

In the 1990s, Forsberg decided construction was becoming too demanding for him, his son said.

So he turned to housing.

"He was good to work with," Brent Forsberg said. "He was gruff and loud, but he had a heart of gold."

He said his grandfather learned compassion from his time selling magazines.

"That's where he learned how to talk with people and that people are good," he said.

One of Brent Forsberg's favorite stories is how his grandfather saw a competitor's truck stuck on the side of the road, about to tip, which could have meant losing tens of thousands of dollars of materials. Forsberg took his truck and braced the competitor's truck until it could be towed out. He was also known for helping employees in times of need, once giving money to keep an employee's home out of foreclosure.

"He was always helping people," Brent Forsberg said. "He had a lot of people who worked for him for their entire careers. They were very loyal to him and he was extremely fair."

Paul Felzke of DeWitt was friends with Terry Forsberg for 40 years and worked with him once on a subdivision in DeWitt.

"He had a lot of ambition to get up and go and do what he wanted," Felzke said. "He was a good friend and a nice gentleman to work with.

This article was written by Alexander Alusheff at the Lansing State Journal. Contact Alexander at (517)-388-5973 or aalusheff@lsj.com.