Jerry was much more than my boss or my business partner. He was my friend. We never exchanged a harsh word.
Jerry was hired right out of High School into a company that specialized in cathodic protection. He enter the PVF market with a job at Taylor Forge. He started in Illinois and moved to the Texas division in the 70’s. From there he helped make Continental Flange the go to source for plate flanges. When released from Continental he went to Jetty Products. A funny story he told was when being interviewed for the job he was asked if he could understand the Taylor Forge price sheet. He laughed and said, “I ought to, I wrote it!” He was hired on the spot. From there he opened Pipeco and Industrial Flange. He and a partner rode the boom of the early 80’s into having two sizable companies. He related the story of the mid 80’s slump in our industry like this. “Just when we were ready to start pulling some money out instead of reinvesting it, the phones stopped ringing. We were calling friendly competitors and asking, ‘hey are your phones not ringing?’ and they would say, ‘No, are yours not ringing either?’ and I’d reply, ‘No, I was starting to think the phone lines were down!” The motto became survive to ’85. Then the saying was ‘85 was just more of ‘84. Jerry was wiped out by the end of 85. He got the idea of leaving the production in Texas and putting a sales office in the Chicago suburbs and focusing on the Midwest market. Thus Texas Flange was incorporated in April of 1986. It grew from being a regional effort to national then international. Through acquisition and getting the right people in the right positions Jerry oversaw the growth of Texas Flange to the place it is now. When Jerry fully retired in 2010 Texas Flange had become the “IBM of Flanges” in the minds of many in the industry. He graciously sold out his remaining shares of the company to its employees.
Jerry succumbed to a battle with cancer on Christmas Day. (And, yes I know, the picture I choose shows him smoking. He joked that when he quit he got cancer – “I should have never quit!”) He had been saying for years that he was ready to go. After the diagnoses a dietician came to inform him of the “Cancer Diet” He laughed and said, “Do you understand what the word ‘terminal’ means? It means I can eat whatever I want.” Jerry is survived by his wife, Lynda Fuller, his five children, many grandchildren and one great grandchild. He is survived in the hearts and minds of those he mentored and touched each time we relax and casually treat others with kindness. In my own way, I will honor him every time I practice unconditional love, laugh at my misfortune, or carelessly let go of my rights to judge others. Among so many other things this is what Jerry taught me.
- Jeff Barnett (employed with Texas Flange since 1996)