Eulogy for Jerry: Plastics leader, advocate, enthusiast

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: January 25, 2013 2:07 pm ET
Updated: January 25, 2013 3:35 pm ET

Jerry Heckman eulogy

Image By: Rich Williams

Related to this story

Topics Legal, Government & Legislation, Obituaries, Plastics Hall of Fame
Companies & Associations American Plastics Council, Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., American Chemistry Council, American Plastics Council (APC)

Jerry Heckman had been a key leader in the plastics industry for nearly 60 years — quite an accomplishment for someone who, as his Plastics Hall of Fame profile notes, "never invented a plastic product or application."

The truth is that Jerry was a lawyer — an extraordinary lawyer, to be sure. But he identified with, and embraced, the plastics industry, and all the people and companies out there creating new products and applications. And he did so with tremendous enthusiasm.

Jerry died Jan. 21 at age 85. Since he was so well-known in some corners of the industry — especially with some of our "senior" readers, and those active in the trade associations — I thought it would be nice to share some of my own recollections.

Heckman's relationship with the plastics industry dates back to 1954, when he was just a year out of Georgetown law school and he met Bill Cruse, known as "Mr. Plastics," who was then the first first full-time CEO for the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.

Of course my own relationship with Jerry doesn't go back nearly that long. I started at Plastics News in 1991, and he was one of the first people I met who was part of the plastics industry. I visited Washington to say hello to all the trade association bigwigs — it was my first trip for PN.

Adam Lashinsky, then our Washington bureau chief (and now an award-winning writer for Fortune magazine) arranged for a sit-down with Jerry. By that point Jerry was already in the Plastics Hall of Fame, and he knew all the major players in the industry. Jerry surprised me right away when he talked candidly about the personalities who were leading the industry's key companies and trade associations. I remember walking out the door of Jerry's office and sharing a smile with Adam.

Jerry started to call me regularly when I began to write most of the newspaper's weekly editorial columns. He offered historical perspective on just about any issue. Do you think plastic product bans are a new phenomenon? Jerry had been dealing with them since the 1950s. Chemical safety? He was recognized internationally as an expert.

Jerry wrote many columns over the years praising our coverage. He didn't like everything, though. He made it

clear to me when he didn't like a story, or an editorial, or even one of our reporters. I imagine that he treated others in the industry the same way. But it didn't bother me. Perhaps it was the way he offered criticism, which most of the time seemed fair. Jerry understood how newspapers worked — a point he repeated more than once.

A while back, when SPI and the American Plastics Council were feuding over a variety of issues, Jerry tried to help mend fences. It took years for that situation to improve, but I'm sure he took some comfort in the fact that the industry is more united today than it has been in at least 20 years.

Let's leave the last word for that Hall of Fame profile — the one noting that Heckman never invented a plastic product or application.

The rest of the sentence really sums it up: "... he has certainly been as creative as any inventor in his work in building and maintaining a business environment that has permitted the stupendous growth achieved by the industry."

Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of "The Plastics Blog."


Comments

Eulogy for Jerry: Plastics leader, advocate, enthusiast

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: January 25, 2013 2:07 pm ET
Updated: January 25, 2013 3:35 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

2014 US machinery shipments up 6 percent

November 25, 2014 5:17 pm ET

Through the first nine months of 2014 U.S. shipments of primary plastics equipment — for injection molding, blow molding and extrusion —...    More

Image

Globalization brings sizable growth, primarily in Asia

November 25, 2014 1:40 pm ET

In 1990, the year after Plastics News published our first issue, there were 33,000 injection molding machines sold worldwide. Fast forward to 2013,...    More

Image

Taipei Plas vandal and German firm trade lawsuits

November 25, 2014 1:26 pm ET

Taiwan businessman Karma Tang, who splashed red paint at German firm Baumüller GmbH's Taipei Plas booth, is in a messy legal battle.    More

Image

Plastics News by the year: 1991

November 25, 2014 6:00 am ET

As Plastics News marks its 25th year of publication, we take a year-by-year look back at some of the events, people and curious coincidences that...    More

Image

Obituary: Patsy Beall, 79, industry activist

November 25, 2014 1:18 pm ET

Patsy Beall, a plastics industry activist who worked alongside her husband of 61 years, product designer Glenn Beall, passed away Nov. 22.    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events