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Life Story: Guy Schoenecker

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- An Eden Prairie man led an extraordinary life as a business owner and a philanthropist.

And now his good deeds are being remembered by those closest to him.

Guy Schoenecker was the founder of BI Worldwide, which is headquartered in Minneapolis and has offices in 10 countries. But Guy's success in business is just a part of his legacy.

He was already running his own business before he graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 1949.

"He started selling rings, engagement rings and wedding rings to people on the campus," said Larry Schoenecker, Guy's son. "Then went from St. Thomas' campus to other schools, and he had a jewelry business going."

Guy Schoenecker
Guy Schoenecker (credit: CBS)

That was the beginning of Business Incentives -- now called BI Worldwide -- which has 1,500 employees who help companies connect with their workers through rewards. Larry is now president.

"He taught all of us kids when we were just really little to stick your hand out and introduce yourself," Larry said. "He loved meeting people, he loved hearing their stories and he was kind of a natural at that."

Larry says as gifted his dad was in making money, he also had a passion for giving it away.

"He did business, he did family and then he helped people," he said.

Fran Heitzman, Guy's longtime friend, is the founder of Bridging, a Bloomington nonprofit that collects and gives away furniture and households goods to families in need.

"One of my mantras at Bridging is, 'When good people get together and do good things, then good things happen!'" Fran said.

Guy helped Fran launch Bridging, and when it expanded to a second location, he gave the fundraising effort a big boost.

"All of a sudden he reached his hand across the table and said, 'Well Fran, the reason we invited you here, we're going to give you another million dollars,'" Fran said. "He exuded kindness and generosity and love!"

Guy also funded scholarships over the years for thousands of college students throughout Minnesota.

"I want to be a better person because I knew him, and he was my dad and I loved him," Larry said.

Guy Schoenecker was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame in 2008. He was 89 years old when he passed away two weeks ago.

"There is only one thing I can say to him now, 'Thank you Guy, and I love you from the bottom of my heart,'" Fran said.

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