Writers often look for the one detail that reveals the whole picture or the single fact that tells the full story. Many times, that one detail or single fact is not very obvious or prominent. It may well be something mundane, obscure or personal.
Here’s one of those telling details about the life of the late Larry Rhoades, a well-known figure in the metalworking/manufacturing community. Larry served on the board of directors of Gardner Publications, Inc. (GPI), publisher of and its sister publications such as Production Machining and Moldmaking Technology. As fate would have it, Larry passed away a few days before he was scheduled to be in Cincinnati for GPI’s quarterly board meeting late last April.
Larry was a man of many accomplishments, a winner of numerous awards, a holder of a multitude of patents, and an activist in many industry, government, educational and cultural affairs, so his obituaries have been long and impressive. Larry founded Extrude Hone (a company dedicated to innovative deburring and finishing equipment—now part of Kennametal) and was board chairman of AMT—the Association For Manufacturing Technology, to mention two often-cited notable points. His service to GPI and this magazine seems a minor point in the reviews of his truly illustrious career.
“Larry agreed to be on our board for three reasons,” said Rick Kline, Sr., president of GPI, as he noted Larry’s passing. “For one, he was a friend. We were both involved with AMT and its important work to advance U.S. manufacturing. Two, Larry didn’t know much about the media business and felt that our company would be a good place to learn. Third, he was fascinated by the dynamics of a successfully run, family-owned business going into its fourth generation.”
As Rick pointed out, each of those reasons reflected a major aspect of Larry’s character and personality. “People were of utmost importance to Larry. So much of what he did was primarily directed to benefiting others, especially the people who made their living in manufacturing, as he did. Joining our board was not only a favor to me as a friend, but it was also a way to benefit our subscribers in industry.”
Continuing, Rick noted that Larry possessed a remarkably creative, inventive and curious mind. “He was always exploring new ideas and new fields. Learning about publishing and trade magazines filled a gap—and there were few gaps in Larry’s understanding of the current manufacturing scene.”
Almost every tribute or comment on Larry’s passing used the words “futurist” or “forward thinker” to describe him. “Maybe that best explains why Larry was so interested in the inner workings of GPI,” Rick says. “Larry wanted to know how we were working toward our own company’s future as leadership transitioned from one generation to the next.” Rick sees this as one dimension to Larry’s strong insights and perceptions into the future of manufacturing. “Manufacturing companies survive only when old ideas give way to new ideas without disrupting the commitment and involvement of top management.” According to Rick, Larry’s suggestions and guidance helped GPI’s board shift directions strategically so that its channels of communication could act more effectively as thought leaders in the manufacturing industry.
Rick summed it up this way: “Larry’s influence will continue for a long time at GPI even though he is gone. The same will be said about him at many other places and institutions.” Apparently, that fact signifies so well what made Larry a unique force in the manufacturing industry. He changed things for the better.