The plastics industry lost a piece of its history on Sept. 25 when Alan Zimmerman died at age 92.
Zimmerman was founder and chairman of compounding firm Marval Industries Inc. of Mamaroneck, N.Y. He founded Marval along with two partners in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1956. Marval began as a plastics film reprocessor before moving into specialty raw material production. The firm moved to Mamaroneck in 1970.
"Alan remained passionately involved in the plastics industry until his passing," company officials said in a release. "Under his guidance, Marval has evolved into a multi-generational family business," led by his son, Tom Zimmerman, his son-in-law, Emil Kocur and three grandchildren.
"From Marval's humble beginnings, including recycling banana bags, it has grown into a specialty compounding firm supplying companies ranging from small entrepreneurial to Fortune 500 companies," they added. Marval's compounds are used in a wide range of applications, including consumer goods, industrial components, personal care and medical applications.
Zimmerman's plastics history ran deep. He was the son of Alexander Zimmerman, a member of the Plastics Hall of Fame. Alexander Zimmerman was an early pioneer in thermosets who worked for legendary plastics entrepreneur Leo Baekeland. While with Baekeland, he helped develop resins that were used on atomic bombs and on shatterproof lenses used in gauges on U.S. Navy battleships.
As a result, Alan Zimmerman grew up around plastics. After high school, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps of Engineers and served in Europe during World War II. After the war, Alan wanted to become a dairy farmer. His father suggested college, and Alan graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University.
"My father suggested I should get an engineering degree first, and then I could always go into dairy farming later," Alan Zimmerman said in a 2014 interview with Plastics News. "So I went into the Army Air Corps … and after that I got the engineering degree … and that was it for dairy farming."
Alan worked as a field sales engineer for Monsanto Corp., in Indian Orchard, Mass., for 10 years selling polystyrene, PVC, ABS and other resins before founding Marval. Even late in life, he was proud of his father's accomplishments.
"My father was an innovator of the first order," Alan said in 2014. "He brought cast phenolic into products which had been made of steel, bone, wood and glass."
Alan's son Tom Zimmerman followed him into the plastics business. In a Dec. 19 phone interview, Tom said that he and his father had a good working relationship.
"We were a good match and we worked together well," he added. "I know that's not always the case for family businesses, but it was for us."
Alan is survived by his wife of 66 years, Joyce, his children, Tom and Mary, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Alan was a member and former captain of the Purchase Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association and the Society of Plastics Engineers.
In 2014, Alan Zimmerman told Plastics News that his approach to business had been pretty simple.
"We wanted to do the things the major companies wouldn't do," he said. "We wanted to put our efforts where they were needed."