There's been an outpouring of emotions and recollection in the thermoforming community as members react to the news that one of the industry's leaders, Bill McConnell Jr., died June 5 at age 88. I've been finding myself reading the long email strings and nodding my head as I see the praise for Bill, with words like "gentleman" and "mentor." One top industrial thermoformer wrote: "The industry is a little poorer today than it was last week. It is up to those of us still active to dedicate ourselves to his vision and to live our professional lives with the same integrity and grace as he did. I hope the [SPE Thermoforming] Division will continue the tradition of service to the industry in his honor and memory." Some have suggested ways to honor McConnell, who has already won the thermoforming sector's top award -- Thermoformer of the Year -- back in 1982. No doubt the SPE Thermoforming Division -- the "Little Division that Could" -- will find a way to honor McConnell at its upcoming 2010 conference, scheduled for Sept. 18-20 in Milwaukee. Last year I mentioned McConnell in a blog post about the division. I was recalling the first time I attended an SPE Thermoforming Division event, back in 1991, when the Fall Thermoforming Technical Conference was held in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Since others are sharing their memories this week, I thought it would be fitting for me to do the same:
I was still in my first year at Plastics News. But I was lucky enough on that trip to witness the start of what became a very successful annual conference, and meet the individuals -- mostly volunteers, of course -- who ran the show. So many of them reached out to help me. I know I'll forget someone, but I'll try to name some of the memorable characters anyway -- Bill McConnell Jr., Steve Murrill, Art Buckel, Paul Alongi, John Griep, Gwen Mathis... really, it was a Who's Who of thermoforming. I got plenty of information for Plastics News' first special report on thermoforming, not to mention all the Texas Aggie jokes I could every want from McConnell's dinner address.Bill McConnell has been a fine source for me over the years, and he's helped several PN reporters with technical -- and historical -- insight. I wish I could say one last time, thanks for all your help, Bill. It was a pleasure knowing you.