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We Called Him Al

AMSOIL Founder, Fighter Pilot and man with a vision.

We Called Him Al

Albert J. Amatuzio Jr. Much of the world knew him as the founder of a Midwest synthetic lubrication company that challenged the biggest companies in the business – going on not only to survive but flourish. Today AMSOIL stickers are proudly displayed on the windows and bumpers of every make and model, social media brims with the photos and stories of the AMSOIL faithful and every major oil brand features a synthetic lubricant.

Building his company from the ground up, Albert Amatuzio became a grand figure in the­ industry. But to us, the AMSOIL Dealers and corporate staff that knew him, he was just Al.

We saw a side of him not everyone had the privilege of experiencing. A celebration of Al’s legacy would be incomplete without sharing the man we got to know over the years.

Al Empowered People

Al made profound connections with people. The wellbeing of every member of his staff mattered to him. Working at AMSOIL meant becoming a part of Al’s extended family.

“I heard a horrible rumor about you.”

One evening, Al popped his head into my office. “I heard a horrible rumor about you,” he said.  “Oh no, Al, what did you hear?” I replied, worried. “I heard your husband is leaving you because you work too much,” Al said. “Erica, I pay you to work hard but I don’t want you to give up your life.  Your family is very important.  Go home.  NOW.”  He waited for me and escorted me out of the building. Al truly believed in a work/life balance and he wanted to ensure your home and family life was healthy. He appreciated the whole person. Not many founders escort you away from your work out of concern for you as a person.  -Erica Danielski, Integrated Marketing Director

“We’d love to have you here.”

I remember coming to “Take Your Child to Work Day” with my mom. Every year Al would tell me, “I can’t wait until you work for this company. We’d love to have you here.” Every year it was the same comment, same smile, and same Al that made so many smiles on that special day. When I turned 20, I applied and was hired. I remember the first day seeing Al when I applied. He gave me the biggest hug and with that finger pointed at me and said, “See now I told you you’d work here one day.” With a wink and a smile I hugged him again. He made an impression on me when I was 7 that is still with me now at 28. He would walk the aisles with his pups making sure to say, “Hi” to everyone and catch up with all of us. He was happy to have us in the office and he made sure we knew it. -Nicole Freascher, P.C Program Coordinator

 

Real Values

My step-father, Don, worked for AMSOIL for around 38 years. They always made sure there was a place for him, even when he started working part-time and when computers took over the paperwork – much to Don’s dismay. Al didn’t have to keep him at the company, but Don worked at AMSOIL until he was 81 years old.  -Brian Lammi, Dealer Sales Trainer

“Walk with me.”

I had returned back to the AMSOIL Center after lunch one day.  I saw Al walking by himself down one of the forklift lanes. Being safety minded, I opted to go greet him and see if I could walk/talk with him to the pedestrian walkway. Al hooked his arm in mine and asked what I had going on that day. I told him I had a meeting to go to in about 5 minutes. He smiled and said, “No you don’t, walk with me.” For the next hour, we walked around the facility and I answered questions about the part of the process we were looking at. It was an honor to spend an hour of unscripted time enjoying Al and seeing so many enjoying his visit.

We got back to our starting point and he asked how many people worked for me now. He reached and opened my hand, and closed it again on some money. “Take them out to lunch,” he said, “They worked hard for it.”

Al always treated others with respect, fairness and kindness. -Anne Schilling, Quality & EHS Manager

Passion For His Work

Al lived the values at the foundation of AMSOIL. He believed that no job was unimportant and he urged all of us to approach our work with passion and total conviction.

 “You have to love what you do.”

Al told me he didn’t care what kind of job a person has as long as they are proud of what they do and give it their all.  He asked, “Is your husband a ditch digger? “ I said, “No, he’s a truck driver.” “That’s fine,” he said, “If he enjoys driving truck and that’s what he wants to do, then he needs push himself to be the best damn truck driver he can be. You have to love what you do and you’ll be good at it.”   -Char Ericksen, Adminstrative Assistant III

“With more authority, comes more responsibility.”

I had just been promoted to packaging supervisor and was getting acquainted with my new office. I had just sat down in my new chair and leaned back to test for comfort as Al walked into the office. “Getting used to your new office, eh?” he asked. “Yep,” I responded as I hopped up to greet him. “You know, with more authority, comes more responsibility?” he said. “Yes. I will do my best,” I said. We walked through the plant together. He pointed out what he wanted done. That was my first work-related meeting with Al. In 1998, back when I was working on the drumline, I would often see a streak fly past out of the corner of my eye. It was Al on his bicycle. He used to ride through on a regular basis just checking on things.-Shane Sjoblom, Packaging Supervisor

“How would you spend $10,000 a month?”

I have many memories of Al, including this early one when I was a writer back in 1986-7. The manager of the communications department was Terry Murphy. Al asked Terry to have one of his writers design an ad. Terry selected me and told me what Al wanted. I replied, “Does Al want an ad or does he want results? If he wants results then we should do a campaign.” Terry suggested I write that to Al in a memo form. Al sent a memo back to me: “How would you spend $10,000 a month?” I buckled down and assembled a plan, then submitted it for his review. What I’d written was returned the next day with the words, “O.K. AJA” written on the top. This is how I began my 30-year career in advertising.  Ed Newman, Advertising Manager

On The Lighter Side

Al loved sharing a good story or joke. He created a culture where employees could indulge in a little fun now and then.

 

He had the ability to brighten your day even if you’ve made a complete fool of yourself. -Tawni Haukedahl, Web Programmer

“The acoustics are better in the bathroom.”

One day I was working a double and didn’t know that Al was around. I was downstairs, with the radio blasting country. I was cleaning, singing and dancing around. I turned around to see Al standing there. He was smiling and chuckling. I could feel myself turning red as I ran to the radio and turned it off. I apologized. He just told me to keep doing what I was doing. I said, “Honestly, my singing is better in the bathroom because of the acoustics.” He said, “Well, I’m not sure about that!”  -Leah Sterling, Maintenance Technician

Al Was Generous

Al was generous with his time and truly wanted his employees to feel welcome and valued.

“They’re going to get paid.”

Al was extremely generous. One day my daughter and son had joined me in the office after business hours and Al happened to come by. Jokingly, he asked why I was forcing my kids to work at such a young age. I joked that they needed to pay for college. He asked what I was paying them. I said spending time with their dad was payment enough. Before Al left he pulled out his wallet and handed each of them some cash. As he walked away he said, “If they’re going to be in the office working, they’re going to get paid.” –Lee South, Vice President, Information Technology

“Go somewhere nice.”

In 2009, I was preparing to go on a 2 week solo road trip. I was talking to one of the receptionists about it the day before I was scheduled to leave. Al walked in and I thought, “Uh, oh. I better get back to work, the big boss is here.”  He had overheard me talking and said, “Where are you going?”  I told him about my trip and he said, “That’s just wonderful. What are you driving out there?”  I told him I was a little nervous because my car had just hit 100,000 miles. He said, “That’s nothing. You got AMSOIL in it?”  I said, “Of course!” He said, “Good for you. I hope you have a wonderful time.” He shook my hand, winked and said, “Go somewhere nice for dinner on your trip.” I opened my hand and he had snuck $200 in there. The shine in his eye showed he was genuinely excited for me. -Sabrina Frehse, Operations Planner

Al Was Humble

“Served a good purpose”

The first time I met Mr. Amatuzio was at an AU event. I managed enough courage to walk up to him when he wasn’t busy and introduce myself as one of his Distribution Center managers from Wichita. He looked me square in the eye and said, “Oh, yes. Shirley Green country!” He then asked me if I had seen “big red” his semi-truck. I could tell the man knew how to put people at ease and carry on a conversation. What a very personable gentleman.

When he was talking to me, I felt like the only one in the room with him. His eyes were locked right on mine. A true genuine man. -David Navarro, Wichita Distribution Center General Manager

“Just call me Al.”

In preparing for my interview at AMSOIL, I was so inspired watching videos about Al and the company he built. I got goosebumps, listening as Al told me to dream. I did. And, thankfully, I got the job. I was beyond tongue-tied when I was introduced to Al a couple months later. “Colonel, it’s an honor to meet you,” was the best I could come up with. “Just call me Al,” he replied. “Just call me Al.” -Cheryl Hoover, Training Administrator

 Al, you will be missed by the 300 employees whose lives you touched and improved, by the Twin Ports community you supported and by the 60,000 loyal Dealers that make a living selling AMSOIL products. Your legacy lives on in all of us.

Al Amatuzio: A Heart of Gold

Al Amatuzio now a Legend

Al Amatuzio: A Heart of Gold

To say AMSOIL founder Al Amatuzio leaves behind a legacy is an understatement. He created the first synthetic motor oil in the world to meet American Petroleum Institute (API) service requirements, fathered a beautiful family, built an AMSOIL family of dedicated employees and independent Dealers, and supported numerous causes through his philanthropic ways.

Al loved the Duluth/Superior community. He grew up here and built his life within this close-knit community. Despite numerous offers to relocate the AMSOIL business out of this community, Al remained loyal to his roots.

While Al had many passions, he held a few near and dear to his heart. We’d like to share them with you here.

AMSOIL Northland Law Enforcement K-9 Foundation

Al always had a special place in his heart for dogs and was particularly fond of German Shepards, which are a fixture in many police departments. The Northland K-9 Foundation was created to support the law enforcement K-9 programs of the Duluth, Hermantown, Minn., and Superior Police Departments, and the Douglas and St. Louis County Sheriff’s Offices. “He would tell us if we needed a dog to call him,” said Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken. “He would outright pay for them, and it was multiple dogs. He was a great man and tremendous benefactor to this community.”

 

 Animal Allies

Animal Allies Humane Society strives to ensure a lifetime of loving care for every pet by reducing overpopulation, increasing adoption and fostering humane values. They are guided by a humane ethic to build communities that universally value animals, understand their needs and take action to meet them.

Animal Allies presented this photo to Al as a token of their appreciation, and it proudly hangs above one of our drinking fountains at the Corporate Office here in Superior.

Douglas County Humane Society

The Douglas County Humane Society is dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals, relieving suffering among animals and promoting humane education. The Society provides shelter, medical care and adoption services to abandoned, lost and misplaced animals. They provide services for approximately 1,000 animals each year from the City of Superior and Douglas County.

Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Northland is dedicated to ensuring that our community’s youth have greater access to quality programs and services that empower their lives and build great futures. Their mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Albert J. Amatuzio Research Center

Located in the Duluth Depot, the Albert J. Amatuzio Research Center chronicles local service history dating back to the Civil War. This research center includes photographs, journals, stories and biographies of veterans from northeastern Minnesota who served this nation from the Civil War through Iraq and Afghanistan.

Al began to build his legacy as a proud member of both the Merchant Marine and the U.S. Air Force. He served 25 years as a fighter pilot and squadron commander with the Air National Guard out of Duluth, Minn.  Al, nicknamed “Ammo” by his fellow pilots, was twice honored as our nation’s top pilot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The passion behind Al’s philanthropic history will live on in the Twin Ports and in the hearts of everyone whose life he changed.

Read more about what AMSOIL employees and AMSOIL Dealers had to say about their fearless and lovable leader.

From the President's Desk – Local Heritage & Happy Employees

AMSOIL CEO Al Amatuzio

From the Desk of AMSOIL Founder Al Amatuzio:

 

AMSOIL CEO Al Amatuzio

Al Amatuzio – Founder & CEO of AMSOIL INC

Frequently I take the time to walk through different areas of the company to meet with our employees. My mission is not to ensure that all noses are planted firmly to the grindstone; it is simply to say hello and make sure employees are content and their jobs are going well. Without fail, I meet with smiling faces, and judging from all of the uplifting attitudes it is clear that our people enjoy working at AMSOIL. They take pride in what they do.

 

I’m not surprised. They have plenty of reason to be proud. It starts, of course, with our products. AMSOIL products perform as advertised. We don’t have to hide behind dubious claims or side-step those issues that concern customers. We want AMSOIL consumers to remain loyal to the brand, and that only happens when performance aligns with expectations. Our employees, and our Dealers, never have to mislead and never have to apologize for product quality.

 

AMSOIL employees are proud of the corporate environment. Dealers who have attended AMSOIL University or one of our conventions and have seen first-hand our corporate office building and manufacturing plant understand what I mean. A person would be hard pressed to find a cleaner, more efficient operation. Our impressive scope, acute attention to detail and corporate culture are not lost on visitors to AMSOIL. Len Albrecht, project manager for Lakehead Constructors, a company that we frequently employ, sums it up pretty well in a recent article in a local publication called Positively Superior. “AMSOIL is an extremely clean environment, and I know they take a lot of pride in that. Beyond that, it’s the people that really stand out. Everybody you walk by says hello. It makes a positive impact when that is the culture of the entire company.”

 

In that same article other individuals point to another source of pride shared by our employees, and that is our commitment to the local community.

 

Whenever possible we employ local vendors. Two trucking companies, Halvor Lines Trucking and Jeff Foster Trucking, have been hauling for us for nearly 40 years. Halvor Lines president Jon Vinje had this to say about his relationship with AMSOIL. “It’s been a long relationship that was started by my father and Al Amatuzio. My dad always taught me the importance of business partnerships. A true partnership needs to be good for both parties, and I truly believe Halvor Lines and AMSOIL have one of these special partnerships.” Vinje added this about our products. “We are extremely pleased with the reduced maintenance costs and increased fuel economy, and it also increases our ability in the cold winter climate. AMSOIL makes a premier product that accomplishes all of the needs for our fleet.”

 

Our commitment to the local community extends beyond our vendors. Although we make a pointed effort to keep the great majority of the donations we provide well beneath the radar, those causes we support that reach the public eye are yet another source of employee pride. Most recently we established an organization called the AMSOIL Northland Law Enforcement K-9 Foundation. Through this, we lead the effort to ensure that our regional law enforcement agencies are adequately funded for the purchase, training and care of the incredible dogs that aid in crime prevention and help protect our police officers in the field.

 

Along similar lines, I felt a personal commitment to lend the AMSOIL name to the recently constructed arena in Duluth, Minnesota. This facility is extremely important to the regional economy, and as a long-time resident of Duluth and a former member of the University of Minnesota-Duluth hockey team, which calls this arena home, I felt obliged to provide support. You will see on page 21 of this issue that AMSOIL Arena received this year’s top honors in Stadium Journey Magazine’s search for the best stadium experience in North America. As the top 10 list indicates, we are in some pretty lofty company, and you can be sure we all felt a certain sense of pride in that.

 

I hope our Dealers feel a similar sense of pride in their AMSOIL Dealerships. This company has worked extremely hard at establishing our brand and gaining respect throughout the industry for integrity and innovation. That’s the foundation on which your Dealership was built. Take pride in what you do and success will follow.

 

AJ Amutuzio