CHESTER, ILL. — In the wake of losing its president to the coronavirus disease, Gilster-Mary Lee temporarily ceased production at its manufacturing facility in Chester.
Tom Welge, vice-president of technical sales and general counsel at Gilster-Mary Lee, said he was hopeful production would resume in coming days. The plant has been closed since April 18.
“We are working closely with local and state health officials to protect our workforce, and we plan to begin a partial startup of the plant this coming week,” Mr. Welge said April 26.
The Chester facility halted production two days after Mr. Welge’s father, Donald E. Welge, president of Gilster-Mary Lee, died of COVID-19 complications at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis at the age of 84. Numerous other members of the administrative staff were sickened as well, including Tom Welge, who has recovered, and his brother Robert.
In addition to serving as the company’s headquarters, the Chester facility houses Gilster’s principal research and development laboratory and manufactures bakery mix and a variety of retail and foodservice products.
“These are challenging operational times for the entire industry, but we are working as closely as possible with customers, employees and suppliers to keep our food products available to consumers,” Mr. Welge said.
Other members of the Gilster team have recovered as well, though Mr. Welge said Robert, who is personnel director at Gilster-Mary Lee, was still ill.
“My brother Rob’s condition has improved over the past few days,” Mr. Welge said. “We are very hopeful with the recent progress he’s made, but the recovery is going to take some time. There is still so much they don’t know about the virus, treatments and recovery process.”