In May of this year, the PVF industry lost one of its biggest supporters when Morrie Beschloss, the “Grandfather of the PVF Industry,” passed away at 94. Having spent most of his life dedicated to advancing and understanding the importance of pipe, valves and fittings in business and life, Beschloss became the unwavering voice of PVF for many generations that followed and continues to grow its footprint.
I was fortunate to have met Morrie many years back. At that time, his incredible knowledge of world events, history, economics and running a business would find him on the speaking circuit. While introducing him to a seminar audience, I affectionally referred to him as the Grandfather of PVF — a moniker that followed him (and one he loved).
However, to understand him, we need to take a quick step back to see how he earned that honor.
Beschloss was born in Berlin; at the age of 10, he and his family escaped the Holocaust. He, along with his mother and brother, emigrated to the United States in 1939. Landing in Pittsburgh, he grew up amongst the steel mills and the background of a city that was helping to build the world.
He would soon move to Southern Illinois, a place that would always hold roots for him. While in high school, Beschloss, an avid athlete, played multiple sports. His love of sports extended to his college years at the University of Illinois, where he served as the sports editor of the school’s Daily Illini. His love for writing and storytelling was formed.
After graduation, Beschloss entered the U.S. Army and served as a first lieutenant during the Korean War. He considered making his career in the Army but soon realized that the world of industry was where he wanted to make his mark.
A Passion for Industry and Business
Beschloss joined Hammond Valve in 1956 as an assistant sales manager and grew its sales from $2 million to $5 million a year before being named president in 1963 at age 33. He doubled Hammond Valve’s sales over the next four years and sought acquisitions to grow the company.
In an article written in the May 2002 issue of The Wholesaler magazine, Publisher Tom Brown comments on Beschloss’s career: “He would help to build Conval (Hammond Valve’s parent company) into one of the valve industry’s largest entities, with revenues of $120 million a year.”
In typical Beschloss fashion, he was eager to promote the valve industry: its opportunities and importance of advancing not only one’s career, but also for what it represented — building industries, communities and futures. Beschloss understood and was passionate about how the building blocks of culture and communities started with brick and mortar — and no building or manufacturing plant can be built without the need for pipe, valves and fittings.
At one point, according to Brown’s feature, Beschloss was the youngest board member of the Valve Manufacturers Association of America (VMA) and its youngest chairman/president. He was also chairman of three trade groups concurrently: The VMA, the Association of Industry Manufacturers and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Information Bureau.
Beschloss held many positions over the years, including running many PVF companies, “he so loved the PVF industry,” says close industry friend and confidant Jim Coulas, owner of Weldbend. His passion included lending his expertise to both educate via industry seminars and workshops, and mentoring so many who called upon him for guidance in their chosen professions.
During this time, Beschloss continued writing, penning columns, blogs and features on business, economics and world history — many of which were featured daily/weekly for the Palm Springs Desert Sun. His news videos appeared on the local Palm Springs television stations. Beschloss wrote for many industry publications, but he found his forever home with The Wholesaler magazine, where he wrote on worldly topics and how those impacted the PVF industry.
According to Brown, it was a comment Beschloss made to him about the industry he loved so much that began The Wholesaler Magazine’s PVF Hall of Fame, which debuted in May 2002. In a feature he penned on the Hall of Fame debut, Beschloss stated: “For years, I’ve envisioned a media-based PVF Industry Hall of Fame because, as a longtime valve industry executive and activist, I’ve been well aware of the unique contributions made by manufacturers and distributors of pipe, valves and fittings.”
The Wholesaler inducted Beschloss into the PVF Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.
While putting together the inaugural recipients for the PVF Hall of Fame, Beschloss worked closely with Don Caffee, owner of Valpers, an industry executive search and consulting firm. Beschloss is quoted as saying: “I consider Caffee one of the savviest experts in the valve industry knowledge. He occupied several marketing positions and has served the industry for 40 years in an executive, personnel and consulting capacity.”
Beschloss followed Caffee’s lead in working with the PVF Roundtable in Houston, where he volunteered his time, expertise and passion for PVF to share with the world.
He also lent his talents to many industry groups, including the American Supply Association (ASA), where he was a vital resource and leader for its Industrial Piping Division (IPD). Mike Abeling, chairman of Consumers Pipe and Supply Co., was close with Beschloss.
“I was first introduced to Mr. Beschloss when I was the chairman of the ASA IPD in 2005,” Abeling recalls. “He took me under his wing and mentored me for many years. Like Morrie, we were residents in the Rancho Mirage area of the California desert. There, Morrie was a local celebrity writing for the local newspapers and appearing on the local television stations as a political pundit with a conservative view. I always said, ‘Hey, I know that guy!’ He was much more than the Grandfather of the PVF Industry. Rest in peace, sir; you deserve it.”
And the rest, they say, is history.
A Life Well-Loved
Morrie Beschloss’s story would only be complete with mentioning the love of his life, Ruth Beschloss, with whom he spent more than 60 years, as well as two sons and many grandchildren. While everyone who knew Morrie had a story to tell — and we know Morrie loved a good story, especially one involving him —we reached out to several industry titans to hear how he impacted their lives.
Ernie Coutermarsh, former (now retired) senior vice president of F.W. Webb Co., focused his career on PVF and held a special connection with Morrie: “Morrie gave our industry dignity and made me feel enormous pride in being a part of it. He had such reverence for the people who made our industry so special. He left suddenly, and a profound silence overwhelmed me. I feel fortunate that he called me his friend.
“Morrie was a touchstone to our industry history and history itself. Whenever I had a question about the people or brands populating our careers, I didn’t Google it — I called Morrie! When he prefaced a conversation with, ‘Did you know …?’ I started making notes to fill in the historical blanks. It brought a better insight into the individuals who built the companies whose brands became benchmarks for excellence.
“He loved to stand before a gathering of industry people and mesmerize them with his almost 100-year perspective that was reminiscent for us veterans and inspiring for the younger generations who will carry his legacy forward in the PVF universe.”
Sheryl Michalak, the owner of Welding Outlets Inc., had a great friendship with Morrie that spanned many years.
“One of the brightest stars in my life was meeting Morrie Beschloss, who I met at the PVF Roundtable the month after 9/11,” she recalls. “It was the October meeting, and Morrie was the speaker. We developed a genuine lifelong friendship.
“Through the years, I learned about many exciting things in his life. The most memorable recollection he told me about his childhood life in Germany. One day, he was told to stand next to the track in honor of [Adolph] Hitler passing in the train. The train made an unexpected stop; both [Benito] Mussolini and Hitler debarked. They walked to the boys, and Hitler put his hand on Morrie’s head. He told me he still remembered the dark evil in Hitler’s eyes.
“Many calls over the years I made to Morrie were to bounce ideas off his knowledge of running a business. He loved to talk about the past. Ruth was more like me; we loved machinery.
“Several times I was fortunate to have dinner with Ruth and Morrie in Palm Desert. Once, I stayed at their house all day talking. The beautiful stories they would tell! Ruth used to ride horses in the mountains around their home. Morrie talked about many things, including playing tennis once with Rita Hayworth.
“There never will be a friend like Morrie. He would call me and say, ‘It’s your best friend.’ Truly, we were so very close, and I will cherish our friendship forever.”
Dr. Don McNeeley, CEO of Chicago Tube and Iron also had strong ties with Morrie: “As a young doctoral student, I benefitted greatly from the mentorship of Morrie. Our industry will enjoy the benefits of his legacy for many years to come. While Morrie was never short of words, I will tribute with efficiency, borrowing from Ludwig Jakubowski, later paraphrased by Dr Suess: ‘Do not cry because they are past! Smile because they once were!’”
Steve Letko, counselor to the president at Weldbend Corp., was a friend and trusted advisor to Morrie.
“Morris R. Beschloss, affectionately referred to as ‘Morrie’ by his friends, peers and colleagues, has moved on to address more significant tasks with his wife and companion, Ruth, as he passes this life, joining her at the age of 94 years. Ruth passed this life on July 28, 2021, leaving a tremendous void in Morrie’s heart.
“Morrie and I also served together on many committees during our tenure at the ASA and the PVF Roundtable.
“I had the privilege of forging a close friendship dating back to the years he was involved with Hammond Valve and me when I was with Crane Co.
“My wife Pat and I shared many meals with Ruth and Morrie around the country and in Rancho Mirage, Calif. They fell in love with Rancho Mirage, moving permanently to their beautiful home there from Chicago.
“Through the years, Morrie and I collaborated regularly on many of his articles and speeches and my industry endeavors. His guidance and insight was, and still is, an invaluable asset.
Tom Brown (then owner, now COB of The Wholesaler magazine) smiles fondly while recalling his friendship with Morrie. “One funny sorry about our relationship. Morrie tripped coming down a very steep stairway on his way to receive an award at an ASA convention. He strained his leg. I administered some first aid to relieve the pain and arranged with the hotel physician to provide ice and heating pads. From then on, per Morrie, I was his personal medical advisor.
“Morrie had the foresight to understand the importance of the PVF Roundtable and worked closely with the founder, Sydney Westbrook, in building an industry organization strictly devoted to the pipe, valve and fitting Industry.
“You could always rely on Morrie to speak at the networking meetings of the Roundtable, commenting on economic and political issues that were either positive or detrimental to, in his mind, the PVF Industry as a whole.
“Morrie received emeritus member status of the PVF Roundtable’s board of directors in recognition of his contributions to the industry and the PVF Roundtable.
“Morrie, I will miss our weekly conversations, your guidance and, most of all, your friendship.”
As mentioned earlier, Brown and Morrie shared a mutual respect and friendship —both titans focused on placing the spotlight on the PVF industry. And in doing so, having fun along the way.
“Four years ago, I called Morrie to wish him a happy birthday on his 90th,” Brown says. “He thanked me and then proceeded to tell me how great he felt. ‘I’m going to live to be 100’, he proclaimed. He also told me that he reserved the date for his 100th birthday at his fancy downtown gathering place, the Standard Club in Chicago, to celebrate his centennial. ‘And of course, Tom, you’re invited.’
“Vintage Morrie, always looking forward and always positive.
“Our relationship went back to the ’70s, more than 50 years ago. During that time, Morrie was very successful in many ways and accumulated many awards — too many to list here because doing so would fill this issue. However, I want to list some of his attributes.: a great companion with a wonderful sense of humor who was brilliant and loyal.
“Wow, what a man!
“On Morris’s 100th birthday, March 7, 2029, I probably won’t be at The Standard Cub in Chicago, but I will be remembering him. Rest in peace, my great and dear friend!”