Roger C. Panella, a blow molding pioneer, died Jan. 17 of colon cancer. He was 63.
Panella, most recently the president and chief executive officer of New Castle, Pa.-based Creative Color Display Inc., co-founded Double R Enterprises Inc. in 1967 in Ellwood City, Pa. with Roger Eddy. The modest blow molding operation - it looked to be a truck storage garage with just one machine, according to his wife, Sandra - was one of the first in that area, said Joe Smarrelli, who served as Panella's operations manager at Double R for 25 years.
Eddy sold his share of the container molder to Stan Krauss in 1975. Double R now operates two plants, in Verona, Pa., and New Castle. Panella and Krauss sold their stake in Double R in 1998.
``It's hard for a small plant to survive, but he was always up on everything that was going on,'' Krauss said. ``When something looked like it'd be the future, he'd invest in it.''
Panella, who lived in New Castle, stayed active in the plastics industry after selling Double R, now part of Consolidated Container Co. He received a patent for a plastic milk container called Moo-2-Go about five years ago. The container has an indentation in its center that makes it easier for school children to grasp.
In addition to his work in the field of plastics, Panella wrote plays as an English major at the University of Pittsburgh and then spent three years as a copy writer and announcer for WKST-AM in New Castle. He also served as executive director of the Junior Achievement Program.
In 1996, Panella was awarded the Small Business Administration's Entrepreneurial Success of the Year Award. Scott Brunke, who was Double R's engineering manager for 10 years and had known Panella since 1975, said it was nearly impossible to tell that Panella had not studied business while in college.
``Roger was one of those individuals, whether he realized it or not, who was key in people's lives,'' Brunke said.
Smarrelli also lauded Panella's philanthropic side, including his support of a city rescue mission next to the facility. ``He just did it out of the kindness of his heart,'' he said.