PHOENIX - If Fred Tompkins can survive a year as SPI Molders Division chairman, he can survive just about anything. And he has - as his colleagues took delight in reminding the outgoing chairman at their recent annual meeting in Phoenix. Proof of that came last April 29, when a disgruntled former employee pulled his car into one of the loading docks at Tompkin's company, Vaupell Industrial Plastics Inc. in Seattle.
The former employee, dressed in Army fatigues and armed with pipe bombs, a sawed-off shotgun and hand grenades, proceeded to clear out the custom injection molding plant and take Tompkins, the firm's president and co-owner, hostage.
The employee confronted Tompkins in his office and forced him into a records vault where he held the executive at gunpoint for three hours.
Tompkins said the man had a lot of problems and wanted to talk, so Tompkins listened very attentively.
``I was scared,'' said Tompkins, when recounting the story at the SPI Molders and Moldmakers divisions joint meeting. ``I really believed he would shoot me.''
However, Tompkins was able to talk his way out of the situation, at which point a SWAT team captured the man without a shot being fired.
Maybe that close brush with mortality is why Tompkins seemed to be having such a great time at the conference. Then again, maybe it was simply that he also had survived his stint as Molders Division chairman, and now could return to running his company.