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A time of heartfelt reflection

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A time of heartfelt reflection

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”  Mark Twain

As another year comes to an end, it seems only natural to reflect on the last 12 months. Reflection on past mistakes, like constructive criticism, is always good, in my opinion. At the very least, it allows past mistakes to become life lessons.

New Year’s resolutions are a direct result of reflecting on past behavior. Maybe you won’t keep them, but they help keep you on the path to self-improvement.

Sometimes the death of a friend or loved one forces you to reflect. Initially, the sorrow is difficult to overcome. Over time, however, the good memories tend to outweigh the sadness.

The death of Ed Wagner, former managing director of the American Retreaders Association (ARA), a few months back after a 26-year fight with myasthenia gravis hit a lot of us hard. It officially marked the end of an era, because he was still representing the industry with professionalism and loyalty well into the last decade.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, he was one of several strong personalities who worked in the public eye and behind the scenes to make our industry associations strong. Phil Friedlander, former executive vice president of the National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association, and the late Bernie Kovach, publisher of Modern Tire Dealer, also come to mind.

These “Mad Men” got things done, and were 100% behind independent tire dealers and retreaders. But as they always do, times change.

The ARA is no more. It morphed into the International Tire & Rubber Association, and then merged with the Tire Association of North America to form what is now the Tire Industry Association.

Financial difficulties followed. The role of tire manufacturers and suppliers in association policy expanded as well.

None of this is necessarily good or bad. It’s just how associations and businesses evolve as times change.

You might think the passing of such an exciting, and some would say more prosperous, era in our industry would contradict my “reflection is always good” theory. It does not. Reflection is really about people. Their legacies live on. That is why thinking of friends like Ed at times like these makes me smile. His wife, Martha, takes such reflection to heart.

“We have such wonderful memories!” wrote Martha thanking me for my condolences. “God is good! Ed was gifted almost 26 more years of life than he should have had — the doctor called them ‘miracle years.’”

She also thanked me for being part of their lives. Wow. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

I am also reminded of Jerry White’s death late last year. The founder and chairman emeritus of White Tire Supply in Beaumont, Texas, died shortly after being inducted into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame. (Wagner, too, is a hall of famer.)

Jerry’s wife, Norma, who was as much a fixture at the SEMA Show as he was, died unexpectedly only a month ago.

Like Ed, Jerry helped out MTD from time to time, either with a helpful article or a letter to the editor. Jerry played a key role in our story on “Consumer Reports” four years ago. He was a part of a spirited forum that helped the consumer magazine’s engineers understand the independent tire dealer point of view when it came to testing and selling tires.

Gene Petersen, program leader and tire test engineer at the “Consumer Reports” automotive test center, was part of the forum.

“Our day-long meeting must have left a positive impression, because from that point forward, Jerry would call routinely sharing his thoughts on tire technology and consumer perspectives on buying tires,” he wrote on the “CR” website following White’s death. “He admitted consumers were often confused with the many tire categories, sizes, specifications, and marketing hype.”

Petersen credited Jerry with helping the consumer understand the dangers of shortchanging a car with the wrong tires.

“He used his wealth of tire knowledge to be sure that the customer always got the best deal and the right tire for the car at a fair price,” he wrote. “We need more people like Jerry. I will miss his calls.”

I will, too. I also will miss talking with Norma. And Ed. But I will always think of them fondly. And I think it’s about time I gave Martha a call.

If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.

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