Peter F. Bemis, President, CEO and co-owner of Bemis Manufacturing Company, died of cancer on Thursday, October 10 at his home in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
He was 66 years old. Peter was born April 21, 1947 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin to F.K. “Pete” Bemis and Grace (Carlson) Bemis.
Peter leaves behind a legacy of innovation and a reputation as an industry and civic leader, and a forward-thinking processing maven who pushed the boundaries of technology.
Peter attended Sheboygan schools, and graduated from Carroll College (University) in 1969 with a degree in business administration and economics, with a minor in philosophy. After graduating, he joined his family’s business as a clerk, processing time cards and job tickets. Restless, he began spending his time on the manufacturing floor, and tinkering in the machine shop. Here he found his true passion. He was soon promoted to manufacturing manager of the company’s then-seven-press injection molding operations.
Over the years, Peter rose through the ranks at Bemis, earning 27 process and design patents, while pioneering the use of multi-layer extrusion and co-injection molding, which, each year reuses millions of pounds of recycled plastic. He introduced statistical process control throughout Bemis in 1975, decades before it was widely employed within the manufacturing community. Peter formed a strong alliance with the plastics machinery maker Cincinnati Milacron, Inc., and, inspired by Peter’s challenge, together the two firms developed and built the world’s largest horizontal co-injection molding machine. Bemis first used this massive 550,000-lb. press to mold large plastic components for agricultural applications. Products up to nine feet in size and weighing as much as 60 pounds continue to be built today.
Peter served on the Midwest and National Boards of The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) for many years. He was past Board Chairman of the National Plastics Museum, and in 2003 received their Plastics Pioneer designation. He was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 2006, along with fellow luminary Jack Welch, past CEO of General Electric. He was also elected to the GE Quality Council and the Supplier Council of Harley-Davidson.
Peter’s most recent recognition was the 2013 Unity (a.k.a. Man of the Year) Award from the National Plumbing Union Contractors for his visionary leadership. “You proved the experts wrong,” said Trustee Bob Melko of Bemis not only surviving, but thriving by manufacturing American-made products with unionized employees.
Besides leading the company, Peter was well known in the community and served on the Board of Directors at St. Nicholas Hospital and Lakeland College for many years. He was active in other community organizations as well. Said recently retired Lakeland College President Stephen Gould, “During his 34 years in service at Lakeland, Peter advised and counseled three of the college’s presidents, and played a decisive role in virtually all of the initiatives that have made Lakeland College the vital and robust institution it is today.”
Peter was serving on the Board of Directors of Bemis Manufacturing Company, and was President of the F.K. Bemis Family Foundation.
Peter is survived by his wife Susan (Fleming). Peter is also survived by his children, son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Dana (Broberg) of Sheboygan, daughter Rebecca of Sheboygan, son Peter (PK) and daughter-in-law Nena (Jakovac) of Sheboygan, and stepdaughters Aleah Altmann of Philadelphia, PA and Nadine Altmann of Seattle, WA. He is further survived by his grandchildren Katherine, Margaret, Elizabeth, Caroline and Lukas.
Peter is also survived by siblings Patricia (James) Schreiber of Sheboygan; Richard (Kristin) Bemis of Sheboygan; Catharine Stayer of Elkhart Lake; Mary Louise “Lulu” (Joel) Lubbers of Sheboygan; stepbrother Steven (Katy) Larson of Plymouth; and Linda (Thomas) Ottensman of Boulder, CO.
He is further survived by his father-in-law Edmund Fleming of Sheboygan, sister-in-laws Nancy Fleming of Shorewood, WI, Patti (Randy) Schilling of Northfield, MN, Mari (Todd) Gutschow of Poway, CA, brothers-in-law Edmund Fleming Jr. of Chicago, IL, and William (Jessica) Fleming of Mequon, WI. He is also survived by former spouse Wendy, and by many nieces and nephews.
Peter was preceded in death by his parents, stepmother Josephine (Larson) Bemis, and stepsister Sarah Mabey.
Visitation will be held at Ballhorn Funeral Chapel on Wednesday, Oct 16 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Thursday from 10 a.m. until a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. at St. Clement Catholic Church in Sheboygan.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to memorial funds at Lakeland College or Sheboygan County’s Generations: An Intergenerational Center in the name of Peter F. Bemis.
Peter devoted his life to building a company that is today stronger than ever. His devotion and his values have left his imprint on all he knew.