Weldbend Corp.’s founder and CEO, James J. Coulas, Sr., died peacefully at home on July 4, apparently of heart failure, at age 92. He founded the industrial fittings company, originally called Viking Valve and Fitting Co., in 1950 and continued to play an active part in running it, along with son and President James Coulas, Jr., all the way until the end.
His entrepreneurial zest was apparent early on as Coulas’
first business venture was purchasing produce from a market near his Chicago
home, loading it into a wagon and selling it door-to-door. As a high
school student, he put together dances, an experience that led him to start a
ballroom in 1932, in the heart of the Great Depression. The Viking Ballroom
attracted some of the biggest names of the big band era, and remained in
operation until 1953, when interest in the music had waned. Other long-ago
business ventures included selling coal and working as a secretary for the
cotton registrar at the Chicago Board of Trade.
Coulas had a divergent range of interests that
included flying his own airplane, and was a history buff with a particularly
keen interest in Winston Churchill. He was a forceful advocate of domestic
manufacturing and took special pride in helping to design new machinery
installed at the Weldbend plant in the Chicago suburb of Bedford Park, IL.