Charles Berkel was born in Muskegon, Mich., the third of six siblings born to Tena and Herman Berkel. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. After serving his country, Mr. Berkel began his career in deep foundation construction working for Intrusion-Prepakt in Chicago. During his employment there, he was the project engineer for the first commercial project supported on Auger Pressure Grouted Piles (APG) in the United States.
While working in Chicago, he met the love of his life, Antoinette “Toni” Strauss. They were wed in June of 1948.
Mr. Berkel was transferred to Kansas City in 1951. And, eight years later, he resigned from Prepakt. With Toni’s assistance, and working out of the basement of their home, he started his own company specializing in Pressure Grouting and the installation of Auger Pressure Grouted (APG) piles. From that beginning, Berkel & Co. grew into one of the largest piling contractors in the U.S., with regional offices across the country in addition to its national headquarters in Bonner Springs KS.
Mr. Berkel was a leader in the Kansas City community sharing his wisdom, time and means with those in need. He served on numerous boards including: the University of Saint Mary; Brotherhood Bank and Trust; Providence Hospital; St. Joseph Care Center; United Way of Wyandotte County; Wyandotte Mental Health; national, state and local chambers of commerce; Villa Saint Francis; and the National Agricultural Hall of Fame Center. Mr. Berkel was also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Railway Bridge and Building Association, Sierra Club of Kansas City, Knights of Columbus, Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Knights of Malta, and Sacred Heart Parish.
Throughout his career, Mr. Berkel received numerous awards including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008, the Deep Foundation Institute’s 2007 Distinguished Service Award, and the Boy Scout District Recipient Award of Merit and Silver Beaver Award. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of industrial science from the University of Saint Mary.
Mr. Berkel loved to work and in many ways, his work defined him. He worked hard and generously shared the rewards of his efforts. He built a strong company based on integrity, loyalty and hard work. He has left his company in the hands of his faithful employees, many of whom were like family to him. Berkel is now 100% employee-owned through the Employee Stock Ownership Plan he established in 1976.
Charles J. Berkel, 88, Chairman of the Board and Founder of Berkel & Company, passed away November 4, 2013.