Ralph Noble, a Canadian plastics industry leader who ushered in a new era of globalization when he became the Society of Plastics Engineers' first president from outside the United States in 1970, died on Aug. 6.
He was 89. His friend and industry colleague, Terence Browitt, said Noble "had been in a rest home for a number of years, because he suffered from Alzheimer's [disease]."
Browitt nominated Noble for the Plastics Hall of Fame, and Noble was inducted in 2009.
In Plastics News' Hall of Fame profile, Noble said he joined SPE in 1951 after graduating from college — and just four years after the society expanded into Canada by starting a section in Quebec.
Face-to-face meetings were the way to get technical information, he recalled in the story: "People wanted the camaraderie of other people who were in the same line of business. Today there isn't the same desire for camaraderie, the group activity, as there used to be. Everybody finishes off their meal and, by God, they're out of there like a rocket. People used to sit around after the meetings and talk."
Noble, a chemical engineer, worked in sales posts for the Canadian operations of B.F. Goodrich, Sherwin-Williams Co. and then joined CIL, the Canadian subsidiary of Britain's Imperial Chemical Industries plc.
He soon became district manager, covering Quebec. At SPE and other industry events, he met the two other founders of Carlew Chemicals Ltd., which they launched in 1961. Carlew specialized in vinyl compounding and the production of plasticizers — mainly for wire and cable, garden hose and other extruded products.
Carlew Chemicals bought several other companies. The company was renamed Synergistics Industries Ltd. Noble became CEO in 1983.
"He was very successful throughout his business career and justifiably earned the reputation of being the most knowledgeable person in Canada on the topic of PVC in wire and cable applications," Browitt said. "Ralph believed that the customer's needs were foremost, a philosophy that certainly contributed to his success."
His colleagues said Noble had a cautious, long-term approach to business, and maintained integrity and high ethical standards. Browitt said Noble was renowned for never making hasty decisions. His favorite phrase was "let me think about it," Browitt said, adding that that this approach was repeatedly proven right.
Browitt himself went into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 2015. He was SPE's president for the 2001-2002 year — the society's second Canadian president, after Noble.
Before Noble became president of SPE in 1970, he showed diplomatic skills when some Canadian plastics leaders wanted to pull out of the U.S.-based SPE and created a separate SPE in Canada. It didn't happen. Noble had joined the SPE's Quebec Section, then moved up through the committees to become president, also becoming an international councilor.
Noble was awarded SPE's Businessman of the Year Award in 1991.
He also was active in SPI Canada, where he won the Can-Plast Award in 1971 and a Life Achievement Award in 1996.
Noble helped organize the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation in Canada, on behalf of SPI Canada, and served as its director for four years.
Noble was hard-working and thoughtful, but Browitt knew a different side of Noble and his wife, Monique, as they lived just two doors away from each other in Hudson, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal.
"We were neighbors for 10, 12 years. We sort of got together for drinks once in a while. He and Monique, they were good people," Browitt said.
Noble is survived by Monique and three children.
Browitt remembers good times: "He was one of those people who could be deadly serious and totally committed, and then after sitting down with a bottle of wine with you, hold a story-telling session. A prince of man."