Fate takes away the future of young boss

At Nelissen Steenfabrieken, Alfons was dubbed 'the old boss' and his eldest son Mathieu 'the young boss'. The latter's future was taken from him on 17 August 1957.

Disaster struck on that day. Conscientious as he was, he thought it necessary to go to the factory in the evening. Which he did more often than not. He lived across the street from the factory. Wearing his slippers, he crossed the Kiezelweg, the road connecting Lanaken and Riemst. It was raining that evening. And the road was muddy. He was hit by a car just as he crossed the road. He was scooped up by the car but did not stand a chance. He did not survive the crash and died on the spot. Mathieu Nelissen was only 44 years old and left behind his shocked family with four children.

A terrible blow

'It was an extremely hard blow for the family and the brickworks,' said his son, Gaston Nelissen. 'My father was a well-liked man in the family, factory, and village. He had a bright future ahead of him, but it was not to be. He was barely 16 years old when he started work at the factory. He attended a school and boarding school in Liège for two more years to learn the French language. And at 18 years old, he started working full-time in the factory. He was the young boss and his father the old one,' Gaston continued. 'He worked in production and contributed to the continued development of the family business. He did not shy away from work. He lived for the factory.'


As a young boss, he helped to propagate an important family value… the considerate treatment of the factory staff! He also put that into practice by ensuring that the people working at Nelissen were not treated as numbers. On the contrary, he talked to them practically every day. Which is how he knew what was going on in the factory and workers' homes. He also maintained good contact with the trade unions. He was not naive and had both feet firmly on the ground. And he knew exactly where he was going.

The village

He was from Kesselt. He never abandoned his beloved village and parish. He was not averse to going house to house every month to collect money for the Catholic organisation 'School and Child'. At the opening of the new parish hall, he and his brother-in-law Miel Bertrand – both of whom were managers of the second generation in the family business – helped organise a large folk festival. Mathieu's sudden death was also a great loss for the Sint-Michaël or Sint-Michiel royal harmony from Kesselt. His father was one of the founders of the music association. He was a member who did not play. But Mathieu did. According to Julien Nelissen, the only surviving descendant of the brickworks' founding father, he played the cornet.

In the municipal council

Mathieu was active in village politics. He was placed on the electoral list of the then CVP and was immediately elected to the Veldwezelt village council. At that time, Kesselt was a small village. He also made his presence felt in the village council. He stood up for the interests of the people of Kesselt. As a councillor, he did not let anyone push him around. He was a man of principle. When he felt that the college of aldermen of Veldwezelt did not appropriately stand up for the Kesselt residents, which it did several times, he drew his conclusions. He left the municipal council and said goodbye to politics.

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