Roy Weikert founded General Films Inc. in 1947 — and that wasn't his start in the plastics industry. His career began about a decade earlier when he created and sold liners for hats, developing a homemade machine.
Weikert, 105, died April 11 at the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio.
General Films, based in Covington, Ohio, makes custom extruded films, bag-in-box systems and industrial packaging.
Weikert spent his formative years on farms and in one-room schoolhouses in Darke and Miami counties in western Ohio. He graduated from Covington High School, then attended Columbia University in New York, and later earned a bachelor's degree from Ohio State University.
Weikert served in the U.S. Army in World War II, reaching the rank of sergeant. He was responsible for the admission and transfer of military patients at the 106th General Hospital located outside of Wimborne, England.
Armed with great intellectual curiosity and believing that anything conceivable is achievable, Weikert was an innovator of products and manufacturing ideas in the early plastics industry. He held many patents.
Weikert got his start in plastics in the late 1930s, during the Great Depression. He created and sold liners for keeping the inside of hats clean from the pomade men were using to groom their hair at the time. One hat shop he called on asked him to develop a cover that would keep hats clean while they were stacked together. Weikert built a machine to create the covers from Pliofilm, developed by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
In the early 1980s, Roy Weikert retired from day-to-day oversight of General Films to pursue aseptic packaging opportunities. Today his nephew, Tim Weikert, is company president.
Weikert's vision led to General Films pioneering technical innovations, including film thermoforming in the late 1930s, an all-plastic milk packaging system developed in 1962, custom-made blown film in 1969, and coextruded films over five decades, including nine-layer films in recent years.
Plastics News profiled Weikert in 2013, as he neared 100 years old. He was walking 2 miles a day — cutting back from 4 miles because of failing eyesight. He was looking forward to new developments and applications for the plastic film industry.
"It doesn't have to be like it is today. It will change. Somebody is going to do it. Somebody is going to do it," he repeated. "I think there's a reason for optimism and growth in the industry."
Tim Weikert said that optimism — as well as a healthy lifestyle — separated his uncle from the crowd. No smoking or drinking. Not even coffee.
"The word for Roy is inspirational," Tim Weikert said in the Plastics News article. "It is that inherent sense of optimism that he has about life; a general sense of optimism that can make tomorrow a better day than today. It's inspirational."
In the 2013 profile, Roy Weikert had some advice for budding entrepreneurs: "I had a strong desire to go into business for myself. I think that's important. You must have a strong desire, and then keep your eyes open. Things don't have to be like they are today."