Our industry has unfortunately experienced a lot of loss recently. In January, the PVF sector lost PVF Roundtable founder Sidney Westbrook, who passed away just a couple of months shy of 83 years old. Also in January, William F. Meyer Co. announced the loss of its co-owner, Bill Meyer. Additionally, in February, two distributors lost leaders — founder of Massachusetts-based, Independent Pipe and Supply Co., Ed Nierman passed away at 98-years-old and Mark Berman, owner of Tuscan, Arizona-based Benjamin Supply passed away on February 7.
It’s not fun to list these losses, but hearing from peers, competitors and loved ones of these men reinforces the true family-like atmosphere the PHCP-PVF industry embodies, and that is something to be honored and celebrated. It is an industry where even the toughest of competitors share mutual respect and care for one another. This is certainly the case when it comes to Mr. Ed Nierman, or “Eddie Nierman” as many were used to calling him.
“It seems like throughout my whole career, I was competing with Eddie Nierman,” says Ernie Coutermarsh, retired senior vice president for F.W. Webb Co. “One thing that stood out about Eddie, was when he lost an order to his competition, he almost took it personally. He was determined to find out why; he would do a deep dive to find out where he or his team went wrong, asking questions to the customer and his team.”
Coutermarsh says this tenacity is something he always admired about Nierman.
Passion is another word that comes up when remembering Ed Nierman, both professionally and in his personal life. John Depamphilis, retired New England territory rep for Wheatland Tube Company, says pride and passion are two of the first words that came to mind when thinking of Ed Nierman.
“He took incredible pride in his work and his family,” Depamphilis says. “But it extended beyond that; he cared deeply for anyone he was associated with. He loved this industry and that transcended into everything he did with Independent Pipe and Supply.”
Roger Urell, owner of New England manufacturers’ rep firm Urell, Inc., agrees, adding that Ed Nierman also had a warm, caring side.
“Ed was a really warm and caring person, and I'm not sure how many people got to know that side of him," Urell says. "But he got to know his peers in this industry and he truly cared about them and their families. I spoke to him just about six months ago and he was still asking about me and my family. He was a true family man."
Depamphilis adds that he was able to attend Nierman's 95th birthday party — about 4 years ago now — and it was clear in that room that Ed help a passion for family and work. "When you think of the great people who helped build our industry up, you think of Ed," he says. "The stories and acknowledgements given at that 95th birthday party were incredible; Ed simply loved this industry and he loved his family and friends with pride."
Another industry legend mentioned above, Sidney Westbrook, founder of the PVF Roundtable and co-founder of Westbrook Manufacturing, strived to include everyone in the great groups the PHCP-PVF industry has to offer.
Joan Adams, longtime industrial client consultant and former Supply House Times writer, says Westbrook always made sure to invite her to every PVF event.
Sheryl Michalak, PVF Roundtable banquet/meeting chair and president of WOI Welding Outlets, describes Westbrook as "a true gentlemen."
"Sidney would call on different companies each month to sponsor PVF Roundtable events," Michalak explains. "It was an honor to be asked; he would present the sponsors with plaques at each event. He was so appreciative and incredibly kind."
Westbrook was all about being inclusive to his industry friends and newcomers. "I once saw him at the airport sitting with a few people in our industry and without hesitation he told me to come over and join them," Michalak adds.
Margie Dalton, membership chair for PVF Roundtable and president of IFC Inc., points out that back when Westbrook was beginning the PVF Roundtable group, his goal was to create a space to be friendly, not competitive.
"This was back when information and news was not so readily available, so Sidney Westbrook and Dick Dalton, who was also instrumental in founding the PVF Roundtable, wanted to create a place to discuss happenings in a casual way," Dalton says. "The spirit of the group was open and honest, not competitive."
Hearing stories from friends of these great PHCP-PVF industry pioneers proves the lasting impact kind, friendly, helpful and caring actions can have. I'm honored to be a part of a place where competitors can be close friends, and where newcomers are welcomed in with open arms and resources.