It was back in the early 1960s, as a teenager in the small Midwestern town of Morton, Illinois, that Nessler first became interested in masonry. His neighbor was a bricklayer who crafted designs in stone that captured Nessler's imagination. No wonder that his first job was a mason tender with Otto Baum & Sons, a company founded in 1938 by classmate Robert Baum's father.

"I started as a bricklayer, not a business," says Nessler. But his field activities came to an abrupt end in the company's early days when a swimming accident left him confined to a wheelchair. However, after 20 years in a wheelchair, Nessler is able to pick up a pair of crutches and walk, with the help of his son.

Nessler founded Phoenix-based Sun Valley Masonry 22 years ago along with Robert Baum. By all accounts, Nessler is the more aggressive and Baum is the conservative one. Uniting their different approaches with their shared values, the partners struck a balance that took Sun Valley to the top of the ranks in Arizona and nationwide. With revenues in the $47 million range, Sun Valley is No. 1 on Ranking Arizona's list of the state's masonry contractors. And for the past 2 years, the company has placed second among masonry contractors nationwide, according to Engineering News-Record's annual listing. In boom times the company has employed upwards of 500 people, and it has received some 20 project awards.

Sun Valley Masonry is the product of two decades of hard work by two families working side by side and giving every spare moment back to the industry. The rewards can't be measured by dollars and cents.