Few have invested more time and hard work into Milwaukee County’s War Memorial on the Lakefront than Dave Drent.
Drent became executive director of the War Memorial Center (WMC) in 1997.
His first day at work there was in 1972 when his Dad, a WWII Veteran who at the time worked as the WMC’s building superintendent, hired him out of high school.
“Right after I graduated from high school, I came to work here,” Drent said.
Drent intended to pursue a career in the trades, however, he stuck around the War Memorial Center instead.
Drent progressed from a maintenance worker to the lead mechanic, overseeing maintenance and operations and at one point even headed up the facility's security operations.
“I just fell in love with the work I was doing here," he said. "I fell in love with what this building stood for."
Drent's been walking the halls of the War Memorial since he was 18-years-old, but his time at the WMC is coming to an end. He'll retire at the end of the year.
Drent admits he hasn't thought much about how "weird" it will be to no longer come to work on the Lakefront each morning. He said he hopes to stay involved at the WMC in some capacity.
Since taking over as executive director, Drent has overseen two renovations to the facility’s banquet room.
He’s also proud of outreach efforts to the community, and thinks more people are now aware of the memorial and what it stands for.
“We had an education program that, four years ago, there were zero kids coming through this building to learn about the efforts of the military,” Drent said. “We’ve grown that to more than 7,000 kids in 2018.”
But Drent said the highlight of his stay at the War Memorial Center was the time he spent meeting local veterans.
"They've given me more than I could ever give them," he said. "I've met so many wonderful people, and they're people I will never forget."