Tom’s first dredge which he designed and built in 1968.
Thomas L. Stojsik died peacefully in his home on March 5 from the effects and complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 74 years old.
Mr. Stojsik was a dredge designer and manufacturer and built dredges through his company W&S Development Inc. also known as W&S Dredge Manufacturer for 38 years prior to selling his company to DSC Dredge LLC in 2006.
His dredges have been used all over the world.
In 1968 at the age of 28 Tom was in the business of installing seawalls in Mt. Clemens Michigan when he saw the need for dredging sediment out of Lake St. Clair the Clinton River and surrounding canals. As Tom researched dredging equipment with the goal of becoming a dredging contractor the cost of dredging equipment and lack of available equipment led him to design and build his own dredge. He had been an engine mechanic in the Navy had worked as a welder in the construction of the Astrodome in Texas and had worked building and testing cruise missiles; he was confident he could design and fabricate his own dredge.
Tom completed his first dredge within a year and he won dredging jobsin the Mt. Clemens area. Although he did not name his first dredge it was stamped with his initials “TLS.” In the spring of 1969 the Lakewood Shores Association purchased the dredge to excavate Cedar Lake in Oscoda Michigan. Although the sale price for the dredge was less than its cost to fabricate Tom was satisfied with the design and with blueprints in hand he decided to become a dredge manufacturer rather than a dredging contractor. As he also liked the Northern Michigan area in which he had been working and chose to establish his dredge construction business there – in Oscoda. In 1977 he moved his facility a little farther north to Greenbush where operations continue today under the ownership of DSC Dredge which acquired the business when Tom retired in 2006. Tom specifically selected and offered the business to DSC at that time.
Tom with the dredge he displayed at the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) show in Florida in 1992.
Tom’s two primary dredge models were the Model D-20 eight-inch by eight inch and Model J-30 10-inch by 10-inch hydraulic cutterhead dredges. Their design simplicity low maintenance and size were intended for portability as well as allowing operation by a single dredge operator. Over the years Tom also designed a variety of custom dredges working to simplify dredges to meet customers’ needs. Some of these models were named “The Water Hoe” and “The Blue Diamond or Model D-12” “Model D-16” and “Model J-32.” Sizes varied from six-inch to 12-inch with digging depths of 18 feet to 40 feet and included wheels tracks removable side pontoons articulating booms and straight suction. A few of Tom’s custom-designed dredges were made of aluminum rather than steel and some were a combination of both. Two very notable custom-designed dredges fabricated in the mid-1990s were manufactured specifically to fit inside a cargo plane destined for Bettles Alaska and inside a standard 40-foot container destined for Siberia Russia. Tom later learned that the container was used by the workers in Siberia for housing.
Over the years the export of dredges to Central and South American countries encompassed approximately 75 percent of sales. Many clients were repeat buyers as they purchased additional W&S dredges for their dredging fleets. One of the most memorable fabrication experiences with the company took place in late 1989/early 1990. Contracts by way of letters of credit had been secured to produce a total of 12 dredges in less than a year to be exported into Ecuador to clean out waterway canals for the shrimp farming industry. In order to meet the deadline Tom employed enough fabrication welders to cover three shifts maintaining non-stop production during that period.
It was a habit of Tom’s to travel to every dredge site for dredge commissioning and training. Many of his dredges are still in operation today. Calls come into the Greenbush facility occasionally for wear replacement components for early dredges which not only tells us a very well-built durable W&S dredge remains functioning in the industry but it also credits the end user for maintaining their dredging equipment in good condition. Although the exact number of dredges manufactured by Tom is unknown the best estimate is in the neighborhood of 190 to 200.
Tom’s wife Charlene and son Bryan supported Tom’s career in the dredging industry and worked with him to achieve his goals. Dredge component changes and enhanced user-friendly add-ons over the years designed by Tom or DSC Dredge maintain Tom’s legacy in dredge design and construction – represented now by the dredges known as the Badger Class eight-inch and Wolverine Class 10-inch cutter suction dredges. Rose Koenig general manager is the only one of Tom’s staff that transitioned under DSC Dredge ownership and who remains with the company today. She joined the company in September 1987 and remained with the company after the purchase by DSC in February 2006.
For those who wish to share their memories of Tom with his family please send correspondence to: Charlene Stojsik P.O. Box 17 Greenbush MI 48738-0017.