The hearts of all who work here at Metal Finishing weigh a little heavier these days in the aftermath of the recent passing of Ron Joseph, our beloved colleague and friend. Ron, who served as our organic coatings editor and resident liquid paint guru for nearly 20 years, lost his brave battle with cancer in early January.
In recognition of Ron’s contributions to Metal Finishing and the industry at large, I could easily fill this space and then some with accounts of how he helped hundreds of readers solve a variety of tricky pretreatment, coating, paint booth, or environmental problems. Or, I could list countless tales of how Ron routinely utilized his expertise to determine the root cause of a paint or coating failure in the field, citing the many court cases in which he testified as an expert in forensic coating analysis. Instead, I offer a modest tribute that speaks to Ron, the man, and the indelible impact he left on me personally as well as the MF staff.
Metal Finishing Publisher Emeritus, Gene Nadel, who initially hired Ron to work for the magazine almost two decades ago, got to know Ron very well. Nadel remembered Ron as not only a tireless, dedicated professional, but also a guy who simply loved what he did as well as the people around him—and it showed through in both his nature and his work.
Patti Ann Frost, formerly managing editor at Metal Finishing, remembers how Ron always began a telephone conversation with lighthearted musings prior to “getting down to business.” Ron, she recalls, had an uncanny knack for guessing precisely what color she was wearing, sight unseen. (After a while he disclosed to Patti Ann that he had obviously phoned someone else in the office to gather the information.)
Another colleague, John Durkee, author of Metal Finishing's "Cleaning Times" column, remembers first meeting Ron in 1993. "He asked me to review a chapter in a book to which he was contributing. Well, I had some technical comments about it, and spoke of them – expecting the normal negative reaction. I never got it, and I never heard anyone speak ill of Ron. He was gracious to me, every time, and everyone else."
In fact, it was Ron who encouraged Durkee to become a professional consultant – without going broke. In the late 1990s, John joined the stable at Ron Joseph Associates (RJA). "Ron got me a couple of good gigs – the best being invited to work with LA’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). That helped me to contribute and become better known. Ron also introduced me to the staff at Metal Finishing in 2000. I owe him a great deal."
As for myself, I will always fondly recall working the many trade shows and conferences with Ron over the years, observing how he so professionally and courteously interacted with manufacturers, authors, and other technical experts. Ron, ever quick-witted, never put on airs and he could split your sides in laughter with a humorous anecdote. He was also notoriously inquisitive—but not in a bothersome way—and he always helped me keep things in perspective. “When life gives you a lemon, Reg, you make lemonade,” he would often tell me in his signature South African accent.
My one regret is that I never took Ron up on the many invitations he extended to me to go visit him out west in San Jose—just to chat, catch-up as well as see firsthand the exciting work he was doing at Exponent, his full-time employer. But with all that was going on in my own life and hectic schedule, I just never seemed to have the time. “There’s always the next show,” I would tell myself. In retrospect, I’m sorry that I never made the time.
Somehow, though, I think Ron would let it slide.
We invite readers to share their own stories or recollections about Ron Joseph. Feel free to zip me an e-mail at email@example.com, noting “Remembering Ron” in the subject line.