Joseph Reber recalls events from his lifetime, starting with his growing up in Butte, Montana during the depression era. He left school at age fourteen ending his education after one year of high school. Following his service in WWII, Mr Reber started a small construction company that grew and prospered for the next forty years. This is the story of a person who took advantage of the opportunities existing in this great country of ours.
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Born in Butte, Montana in 1919, Mr. Reber is approaching his ninetieth year. His father was a copper miner for the Anaconda Company. His mother was a part time reporter for the Butte Daily Post. Mr. Reber was involved in politics at the state and national level throughout most of his adult life. Mr. Reber is retired and lives in a senior citizens residential facility in Missoula, Montana where he has worked on his memoirs.Review:
Montana's own Joe the Plumber' pens the secret of his success By BETSY COHEN of the Missoulian I never had any formal training, so I always looked for the best guy to learn from, Joe Reber said last week at his apartment in The Springs retirement center. Who is Joe the Plumber? In Montana, he's Joe Reber, a Butte-born businessman who grew up in poverty and created a multimillion-dollar plumbing dynasty the old-fashioned way. Through hard work and hustle, Reber - who now lives in Missoula - climbed social and economic ladders to the highest heights. He mingled with movie stars and presidents, he advised senators, he shook hands with two popes. He entertained JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy. He escorted Ted Kennedy's family around Montana. And, among many other things, he championed the legislation that created the state's vocational technology programs. He never graduated from high school, but the small Helena-based plumbing company he started grew and expanded into new arenas - including general and electrical construction - springboarding into the Reber Realty and Development Co. and the Capitol Wholesale Plumbing Supply Co. He employed hundreds. He owned airplanes and hotels. These economic times don't worry him, Reber said recently at his home in a Missoula retirement center. He's seen it all in his 90 years, and he expects the American spirit will do what it is hard-wired to do, to carry on through good times and bad, turning lemons into lemonade, just as he did. He'll be at Fact and Fiction Bookstore in downtown Missoula on Friday, telling stories and signing his autobiography The Paperboy. It's a uniquely personal perspective that sheds light on some of the greatest chapters in American history through the eyes of one well-placed Montanan. The Great Depression. World War II. Vietnam. The Cold War. Iraq. Joe is the original Joe the Plumber,' said Pat Williams, Montana's Butte-born former U.S. congressman. Joe came out of the old Montana and the old Butte, and his life in many ways mirrors Montana's storied economy and politics. Montana has been successful economically in large part because of risk-taking entrepreneurs like Joe who ended up making it big and always giving back. Reber's home office at The Springs is a quiet place, but the walls jump with an unusual life - photographs of Joe, smiling behind the glass, caught in remarkable moments through the decades. There's one with John F. Kennedy in Reber's Helena home. Another on a golf course with Bob Hope. Others must have included a funny quip, prompting a laugh from Gerald Ford and a smile from Bill Clinton. Some are the same mementoes reproduced in the pages of Reber's book, copies of which are stacked in boxes waiting for this week's release. Personal letters from Mike Mansfield. Invitations to the inauguration of Lyndon Baines Johnson and Hubert Horatio Humphrey. A White House reception for Jimmy Carter. Trips with the grandchildren. Original artwork tastefully breaks up the images and tokens of a large life lived on an even larger stage. It's a wonder, Reber said, all of it. His first paid work was selling Butte Daily Post newspapers to prostitutes and their customers, and the money he earned helped feed his parents and seven siblings. Dad was a hard rock miner, and the family relied on charity to get through the toughest times. Reber learned to hustle work early on, and perhaps, that's the key to his success. I don't know, he said with a shrug of his shoulders. You pick a road and you follow it through to the end. There's some luck involved. But I guess I just wanted to learn things. I never had any formal training, so I always looked for the best guy to learn from. --The Missoulian, 11/2/08
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