ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Milton A. Frater

1924 - 2002



Milton A. Frater, 77, of Lake Mills, passed away Friday, March 1, 2002.


Funeral services will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at St. Henry Catholic Church with Rev. Bernard Rott officiating.


Burial with military graveside rites conducted by the Watertown Veterans Council will be in St. Henry’s Cemetery.


Family and friends may call to pay their respects at the Schmutzler-Vick Funeral Home on Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. and at the church on Thursday from 10 a.m. until the time of the service. A rosary will be recited at the funeral home Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.


In lieu of flowers, the family asks memorials be sent to the Watertown Senior and Community Center.


Frater was born and raised in Watertown. He was a graduate of Watertown High School.  He began college at the University of Wisconsin, but then in 1943 enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. After serving three years aboard the USS Cincinnati as one of the first men trained in radar and sonar, he was wounded in action and received an honorable discharge and returned home.


On June 27, 1945, he married the former Mary M. Kwapil. He attended Northwestern Business College and began working at G. B. Lewis Company/Container Development Corp., which then produced wooden products.


In 1953, he injected the struggling postwar industrial era with revolutionary applications of plastics by patenting the stack 'n nest containers. Together with his brother, Allen H. Frater, they conceived the concept of reinforcing their plastic with Owens Corning Fiberglass, producing the most durable container of that time.


“Imagineering" is a term and concept invented and coined by Milton. Together with his father, G. Gordon Frater, and brother Allen, Milt imagineered, invented and produced the first automated vertical storage unit, the Select-a-Shelf, and the divider boxes in 1962. These two inventions were destined to radically change the layout and procedure of production facilities. They enabled U.S. corporations to streamline operations and jump to the forefront of international production.


To provide adequate inventory of these inventions, Milton was responsible for locating, building and incorporating two sites in Manchester and Monticello, Iowa. These sites were chosen for their community work ethic and state land municipal cooperation.


Quoting a 1963 Watertown Daily Times article G. B. Lewis Co. then stood as “a monument to American enterprise, business foresight and well managed operation ... It is no exaggeration to say that if the founders of the company ... could return today and see what they started, they would be both amazed and satisfied. And justly proud, for nowhere in local annals is there a better story of success than that which is to be found in the history of the G. B. Lewis Company here in Watertown.”


Representing the United States at three Industrial World Fairs, Milton and his wife met and shared ideas with many other international corporate minds. This resulted in Milt's exchanging of patents which mutually benefited international plastic development.


After retirement, he was instrumental in establishing numerous other manufacturing concerns - Best-Ex (metal stamping), Northwest Power Products (NWPP) distribution, Scotlin Ceramic Distributors and LEW Inc.


Milt and Mary put their time and energy toward the restoration of the town of McGregor, Iowa, playing cards and boating on Rock Lake (Lake Mills) and the Mississippi River.


His creative and entrepreneurial spirit survives in his children. They include Tim (Kathy) of Neenah, Jim (Kris) of Cottage Grove, Linda (Charles Zahn) of McGregor, Iowa, Bob (Kelly) of Houston, Texas, Patrick (Sandy) and Scott (Laura) of Minneapolis, Minn., and the foreign exchange student daughter, Maria (Freire) Poblete of Quebec, Canada.


He passed his dedication, honesty and strong work ethic to his 11 grandchildren, and the seeds of humor and intellect to his seven great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.


Also surviving are his brother, Allen H. (Angela) Frater of Mequon; a maternal aunt, Janette Schroeder of Rockford, Ill.; and other relatives.


His parents, G. Gordon and Hazel Frater, preceded him in death.