Simon P. Gary’s 50-plus years of service to the industry was a living example of the man who, when given a job, gets the job done. Through his years of experience in the job shop business and his background in the consulting field, he built a reputation as one of the most knowledgeable people in electroplating in the country.
Si began his career in metal finishing directly out of college—with a chemical engineering degree from Rose Polytechnical Institute—in the early 40’s, working at the Allison Division of General Motors in the battery manufacturing division. Shortly after being hired, he proposed several changes to the lead plating line that lowered the reject rate dramatically. His superiors were pleased, but his co-workers were jealous and made life a bit uncomfortable for him. Si moved on to work for Grunwald Plating, where he was in charge of the hard chromium plating shop—which he successfully managed for several years until Mr. R. Scott Modjeska hired him away to head Scientific Control Laboratories (which Scott had founded in 1938). After one more stint of service at Grunwald, Si became a partner of Scientific Control Laboratories in the mid 1950’s and bought the company in 1961.
Si became a very active member of the American Electroplaters Society, now AESF, and served in all offices of the Chicago branch, including its president in 1957–1958. During his tenure, the Chicago AESF blossomed into a financially sound and dynamic representative of the metal finishing industry. Si, along with Paul Glab, West Town Plating, and Bill Crawford, Chrome-Rite, laid the financial foundation for the AESF/Chicago. In 1978 Si was elected the national president of the AESF.
In 1969, the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, now the MWRDGC, realized that an effort needed to be made to control the inflow of toxic pollutants to their treatment plants and passed the Sewer Discharge Ordinance. Mr. Gary demonstrated a keen knowledge of toxicology and wastewater treatment. As a result, he was appointed to represent CMFI, the steel industry, the meat packers, and the electronics industry in negotiating with the MWRDGC with regard to what could or could not be achieved in wastewater treatment. His technical guidance and data helped produce discharge limits that in most cases could be achieved by metal finishers with simple-to-operate equipment. In 1969 Si became Technical Advisor to CMFI and often provided free engineering services to platers who were having trouble meeting the ’69 discharge limits.
In the early 70’s, the MWRDGC decided to tax sewer discharges for volume, BOD, and suspended solids. Si was active in providing technical guidance to CMFI on how to comply with this new tax and keep it manageable.
In 1972 Congress passed the Clean Water Act, and EPA followed with its own sewer discharge standards that were far more onerous than those enforced by the local District. Si, along with Weldon Crawford, Jim Blacklidge (Craftsman Plating), and others from the national NAMF realized that the job shop plating industry could not survive if these discharge limits were actually imposed on the industry. Si served as a consultant to the NAMF Water Pollution Committee and participated in hearings with the EPA in Washington, resulting in significantly more lenient discharge limits for job shops.
Si also represented CMFI in hearings held by the Illinois Pollution Control Board, resulting in Illinois having one of the most responsive and supportive environmental protection agencies of any industrial state at that time. He was also active in shaping regulations on hazardous waste under the resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which allowed plating wastes to be disposed of as hazardous waste without significant monitoring costs. Si utilized his uncanny ability to make friends with anyone he met to develop relationships within the EPA, and that paid huge dividends for the industry.
Si developed a reputation in government and industry for integrity and knowledge that reflected well on all the job shops in the country. Instead of dirty polluters, he created a new image for us as the small family business that employed a large number of under privileged citizens. His efforts were probably more productive as anyone in the country in bringing information on pollution control to both industry and regulatory bodies and saved our industry huge sums of money.
The most important contribution Si made to the membership of CMFI is the most difficult to detail. Between 1969 and his retirement in 1992, he spent thousands of hours providing counsel and advice on the phone, in person, at hearings, at trials, to platers in trouble. Sometimes he was paid; oftentimes he was not.
Si was a great raconteur of humorous anecdotes about the Chicago platers during the 50’s and 60’s. He was a gentle man with a big heart and a ready smile. He will be missed by his many friends around the country but especially by his CMFI family, which he served so well over so many years.