For five decades, the Society of Plastics Engineers has opened doors for Guy A. Martinelli. Fitting, since he started by manning the door himself. When Martinelli joined the New York Section of SPE, he was in his early 30s. He was working at Sylvan Plastics Inc., a producer of urea formaldehyde molding compounds that competed against Bakelite Corp.
It was 1950.
Martinelli volunteered to be a member of the Door Committee. At meetings, he greeted people at the door, handed out name tags and collected money. A good way to meet everybody.
"Then I volunteered to become membership chairman," he said.
Today Martinelli, 82, figures that joining SPE was one of the best decisions he ever made.
"My closest friends are SPE members," he declared in a 1994 speech at SPE's Palisades Section in New Jersey.
G. Palmer Humphrey Sr., one of those buddies, nominated Martinelli to the Plastics Hall of Fame. Humphrey himself joined the hall in 1994.
"We met at an SPE meeting in New York, in either the late '40s or early '50s. It was love at first sight — what can I tell you," Martinelli said, laughing.
He became section president in 1956. As general chairman of SPE's big meeting, the Annual Technical Conference in 1959, he helped put in place the system of selecting and presenting papers and soliciting speakers that still is used today. Paid attendance that year was nearly 3,000, a record.
Moving to the national level, Martinelli became chairman of SPE's professional activities group. The group created divisions, based on areas of interest such as extrusion and automotive. He founded the Polymer Modifiers and Additives Division.
Martinelli was SPE president in 1964. Five years ago, he headed a search committee to find a new executive director for the Brookfield, Conn.-based society. He still attends almost every Antec. Some people collect baseball statistics; Martinelli collects SPE trivia.
"I have a record of every motion I made" at Antec, he said.
Each year at the Antec business luncheon, he and Humphrey always get guffaws for their Laurel and Hardy routine of making, and seconding, a motion to adjourn.
He and Humphrey also teamed up to spur the Plastics Pioneers Association to set up a college scholarship fund.
Of course, SPE was not his only good decision. He married his wife, Florence, on Dec. 6, 1941 — the day before Pearl Harbor. After a 15-hour honeymoon, he left to continue service in the Army Signal Corps. He attended officer training school and ended up as a major.
He joined Sylvan Plastics in New York after the war, eventually moving up to become president of the thermoset resin manufacturer. In 1961 he bought into Dimensional Pigments Inc., which made synthetic pearlescent pigments in Bayonne, N.J.
Contacts at SPE helped him make the transition to thermoplastics, the major user of the pigments.
Martinelli bought a larger share of the growing firm, then sold Dimensional Pigments. He stayed on as manager, then took early retirement in 1974.
Once again, he bought a minority interest in compounder and material supplier American Polymers Inc. of Paterson, N.J. He said he left after a promised sale of the company to him fell through.
In 1976, he created a consulting firm for mergers and acquisitions, called Accolade Plastics & Chemical Associates, working out of his house in Red Bank, N.J. He tells new clients that he can reach anybody in the plastics industry, either through direct contact or by making a few calls — to fellow SPE members.
Now Martinelli is phasing out his consulting business.
"I'm under pressure from the family to back off some things," he explained.
But not SPE.