When SHDA past presidents, Al Hoffman and Virl Mullins, spoke at the 40th anniversary annual conference of SHDA in April of 2010, few of us would have imagined that less than ten months later, Al Hoffman would be gone. When Virl and Al prepared a walk down memory lane and regaled the members with stories of SHDA and the locksmith industry’s history, it is now hard for me to comprehend that 40-year-old Andy Hildebrand, sitting two seats away from me, would also be dead within a few months.
Less than six weeks after the annual SHDA conference in which Al and Virl celebrated the history of locksmith distributors, Doug Maston died on June 8th.This was only two weeks after Doug retired from his Chief Executive Officer position at Killeen Security Products (KSP). Doug worked at KSP for almost 25 years, helping to lead the company in manufacturing a complete line of interchangeable cores and housings. Before coming to KSP, Doug worked for the Independent Lock Company and ESP.
Doug was one of my favorite people in the industry, a man who told it the way he saw it, one of the truly “good guys” in the lock business. His son, Ken, wrote a letter to his father for Father’s Day, which was never given and became Doug’s eulogy. “Thank you, dad,” Ken wrote, “for teaching me that it’s sometimes just the small things we do together or the little jokes we play, that are most important.” Like his son, I enjoyed the small things with Doug, talking and laughing and telling stories about our business. Meeting with Doug was rarely about doing business but instead about keeping alive wonderful personal relationships that never die.
Another father, friend, and legend in the industry died only six weeks after Doug. Larry Kern worked in the security access business since 1985 with Master Lock, Fort Lock, Kaba, and Securitron and most recently in the position of Director of Wholesale Sales for Assa Abloy. Larry was funny, energetic, friendly, and a great joy to be around and do business with. Only a year before he died, I recommended Larry be added to the SHDA Industry Advocacy Committee because he was one of the brightest and best in the industry. Less than a year later, he died unexpectedly. He was only 59.
Only six weeks later, Ernie Pugatch passed away after a bout with cancer. Ernie had been president of Arrow Lock of Brooklyn, NY, throughout the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, leading the company in the locksmith supply business with an excellent line of cylindrical knob locks, deadbolts, interchangeable core products, mortise locks, and door hardware. After he retired and Arrow was purchased by Assa Abloy, Ernie continued to call on many of Arrow’s distributors. Honorable, honest, and intelligent, he was treasured by many of the best distributors as a real friend. He called me monthly along with many others in the industry, including Al Hoffman, just to ask how we were doing and to talk about the industry. I will never forget his phone calls and his friendship.
Ed Mayer, the owner of Commonwealth Lock of Massachusetts, died on October 4th. In a Locksmith Ledger issue from May 1993, (“Commonwealth Lock: Customers are like family,” Bob Psolka), Eddie said, “My philosophy in business is personal contact. The locksmith is my business and I treat him as family. I take care of his needs.” Jerry Roraback, VP of Lab, told me, “Ed Mayer was ‘one on a kind’ like your dad. He built that business with his own hands and was so very knowledgeable and so very liked. Every one loved Big Ed.”
One week later, Andy Hildebrand, Operations Manager of Blaydes Lock and Security, died at the tragically young age of 40, leaving his wife and two children without a husband and father. Andy joined the family business as so many others have in this industry, including me, after graduating college (for him, the University of South Carolina.). He was a musician as well and passionate about his family, music, and water and snow sports.
When SHDA past presidents, Al Hoffman and Virl Mullins, spoke at the 40th anniversary annual conference of SHDA in April of 2010, few of us would have imagined that less than ten months later, Al...