Alex DeBogory Jr. once quipped that the product his family business has manufactured in Miami for nearly a century isn’t as high-profile as, say, the Burger King Whopper.
“It’s something the average person never notices. The one time they pay attention to it is when their commode backs up.”
But the “it” DeBogory Jr. referred to in a 1988 Miami Herald profile on the Medley-based U.S. Foundry & Manufacturing Corp. is a feature of city life nationwide: the unremarked, seldom celebrated manhole cover.
If you’ve walked on a South Florida street or crossed a thoroughfare in New Orleans during Mardi Gras or saw steam rising out of one on Broadway, chances are you’ve stepped on some of his family conglomeration’s products.
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The Miami-born DeBogory Jr., who died at 82 on April 7, took a little local foundry founded by his father in 1916 in downtown Miami, moved it to Medley in the mid-1960s, and turned it into one of the largest of its kind in the southeastern United States.
The parent company, Eagle Manufacturing Group, oversees its four industrial/manufacturing subsidiaries: USF Fabrication; US Foundry; United Concrete Products and Eagle Metal Processing & Recycling.
By 2012, Eagle had more than $100 million in revenues and plants in Hialeah, Medley, West Palm Beach and Ogden, Utah. The company employed more than 700 people.
The roots date to a bicycle repair and welding shop his father Alex DeBogory Sr. opened on a lot at Northwest First Court and Fifth Street in Miami in 1916. Today, the Miami Police Department sits on the site.
In 1937, as Miami grew, the senior DeBogory added a foundry and his son, who attended the University of Miami on a football scholarship, went to work at the family foundry in the 1950s.
DeBogory Jr. — “Sandy” to friends and colleagues —remained with the family business for more than 60 years.
“The only thing his father gave him was the opportunity and that is what he wanted to do for his children — give them an opportunity,” said DeBogory Jr.’s daughter Lynn Allen.
DeBogory Jr.’s son Alex Lane DeBogory, who began his career with the company in the 1970s in the concrete subsidiary, runs the company now alongside the grandsons Lane and Shane — two of the three grandchildren.
DeBogory Jr., who lived in “Miamuh,” as he called the city, took pride foremost in family.
“He was very proud of his grandsons in the business,” Allen said. For instance, when his grandson Lane played football for the U.S. Naval Academy and then went on to become a Navy SEAL, DeBogory Jr. beamed.
His son-in-law Jeff, Allen’s husband, is a sales manager for US Fabrication.
“He was a very simple humble man that was never impressed with status. He always said he worked because he had a passion for his company and was ‘too dumb to quit.’ His family and friends were very important to him,” said his daughter, a landscape designer.
Adam San Solo, an employee at US Foundry, sent Jeff Allen an email to honor DeBogory Jr. as “a true entrepreneur … challenging and inspiring those around him.” A man who “leaves as his legacy one of this country’s most preeminent municipal construction products companies, now managed by his son and two grandsons.”
Outside work, Sandy sailed at Coral Reef Yacht Club in Coconut Grove and played golf and tennis at Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables.
Said Allen: “He would always say, ‘Playing is more fun after a day of hard work.’”
In addition to his daughter, son and two grandsons, DeBogory Jr. is survived by his wife Jeanie, his stepchildren Kirtus and Jordan, his sister Iris Roig, his granddaughter Angelique, and three great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday April 18 at Caballero Rivero Westchester Funeral Home, 8200 Bird Rd., Miami. Donations in his name can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.