Hubert Kleysen is one of Manitoba's leading entrepreneurs, and a well-known figure in the transportation industry. He is also an active philanthropist and dedicated family man.
Born as the eldest son and first generation Canadian to Dutch immigrant Harry Kleysen and Margarite Bossuyt, Hubert quickly learned that hard work and responsibility were the cornerstones of life. In 1930, his parents started Kleysen Cartage in Toronto but moved back to his mother's hometown of Winnipeg, during the height of the Depression in 1935. This was the same year that Hubert was born.
Hubert was raised and educated in Fort Garry, along with his sister and two brothers. While still in school, his parents established Highway Motors, where Hubert began to pump gas and do mechanical work at a young age; often doing his homework in between gas tank fills. His passion for machinery, trucks and mechanical invention began to surface during these years, and immediately after he graduated, Hubert joined his father at Kleysen Cartage working as a mechanic, truck driver, general business associate and backup to his father.
In 1956, Hubert married Bernice Vanderstelt, and together they built their first home in St Vital. Later they moved to Ft Garry and still live in that vicinity today. Bernice and Hubert have three children – Brenda, Tom and Rob, and five wonderful grandchildren – Karl, Max, Alex, Shannon and Stephen. Family, community and friends have always been the root of Hubert and Bernice's home, their business and daily life. They attend church regularly and support their Parish. Bernice was also an active volunteer at St Paul's High School while their sons, Tom and Rob, attended.
Hubert was in his mid-twenties when his father suddenly passed away, and he assumed responsibility for the family business. Under his watch, Hubert saw his company grow from a small-fleet family-run cartage company, to a multi-faceted trucking and transportation company, employing over 1,000 employees and 1,600 pieces of rolling equipment.
Hubert's innate engineering ability and inventiveness strongly influenced Kleysen's growth. Over the years, the company was successful in obtaining numerous long-term contracts for hauling commodities that other over-the-road carriers were just not equipped to handle. Each of these brought its own set of unique challenges that required new and innovative approaches and techniques. Kleysen became known in the industry as the "Transportation Solutions Provider". Hubert patented numerous mechanical devices, a number of which have significantly aided the industry as well as brought Hubert recognition and honour by the Transport Industry and Transport Canada.
Hubert ran an extremely hands-on operation at Kleysen, and many times could be found spending time checking a truck or chatting with mechanics and others over issues with the trucks. Hubert considered everyone that worked for him as family. He truly was a mentor, a friend, and a trusted family member to many of his employees. In the days when the company was smaller, Hubert knew everyone by name and everyone knew him. They respected and trusted him. People who worked for Kleysen were happy to come to work. That is reflected in the great number of long-term employees that Kleysen still has today. This instilled an environment of respect and communication that spanned through the years and is still the basis of Kleysen philosophy today – "It's about the people".
In addition to his work at Kleysen, Hubert has also spent many hours on industry related projects. One such major project was the development of the Northern Hemisphere Distribution Center, which later became Winnport. It had the support of all levels of government, but the timing was not right and some say that perhaps it was just a little before its time. He also founded and owned Riverside Gravel, which included road building and asphalting.
True to his continuing concern for his family, his employees and their families he saw an opportunity to secure better futures for everyone, and in 2006 Kleysen Transport was sold to the Mullen Income Fund. Hubert's role has changed from that of owner to that of trusted advisor and Director of Kleysen Group.
Hubert has always been a strong believer in supporting and being an active part of the community. His many other Boards and community support over the last 50 years include: Associate of the Faculty of Management (UofM): Member of St Charles Country Club, the Manitoba Club, the Ocean Reef Club; Military Order of St Lazarus and many other organizations. His commitment to the community was not limited to but included organizations such as the Health Sciences Center, Children's Hospital Foundation, Lindenwood's Community Center, Whyte Ridge Community, Oak Bluff and Surrounding Area, Fort Whyte Center, Humane Society, United Way, Winnipeg Harvest, Salvation Army and St Paul's High School. Some of his past Board posts include; Chairman of Winnport, Chairman of Airport Area Review Team, Honorary Cabinet Member Red River Community College, Chairman - St Paul's High School Paths of Discovery Fundraising Project, Director Manitoba Trucking Association, Director Winnipeg Harvest, Director DeZaiiar Foundation, Board Member of RTAC (Roads & Transportation Association of Canada) and Board Member of Manitoba Road Builders Association. During 1998 Grey Cup festivities in Winnipeg, Hubert was the driving force in the first Festival of Lights Parade and kicked off the parade as Honourary Parade Marshall. This parade has continued through the years.
In 2002, Hubert was awarded the Queens Jubilee Medal, an honour bestowed on individuals who have made a significant contribution to their community. Recently he completed his term as Chairman of the Breakthrough Capital Campaign, for the Health Sciences Center Foundation, raising in excess of $25 million in support of the Siemens Institute for Medicine. He presently still sits on the Board of the Health Sciences Centre Foundation.
Although Hubert never had an opportunity to attend St Paul's himself, both his sons did and were involved in many of the school activities. Hubert was actively involved with St Paul's as he chaired one of the major fund-raising campaigns for the school, and believes in the philosophy of the school. In 1968, when his brother unexpectedly passed away, Hubert created the Gary Kleysen Bursary Fund at St Paul's.
Hubert is truly honoured to be chosen by St Paul's as their 18th Annual Recipient of the Ignatian Challenge Award. He does this not for the recognition of the things that he has done, but to recognize and create an awareness of what a wonderful place the St Paul's Community is. As his life philosophy has been to care and nurture those who need help, St Paul's mirrors that with the type of community that they have developed.