U.S. structural building components industry mourns loss of Don Hershey; only two-term President of Wood Truss Council of America is remembered as 'epitome of innovation and courage'

MADISON, Wisconsin , November 23, 2011 (press release) – The structural building components industry lost one of its greatest champions, Don Hershey, when he passed away at home late last Thursday. “He was a monument of a man, and yet a quiet hero,” said Bill Black (Automatic Stamping Co.). “I don’t know of anyone who gave as much as Don did to the industry.”

Hershey began in the industry in 1963 with business partners Dave and Henry Chambers in the Chicago area with one of the first truss plants in the United States, Imperial Components. In the early 1970’s, Don bought a portion of Imperial Components; Don and Dave then became the majority owners when Henry left the company to start Chambers Truss in Florida. Don and Dave started TruTrus in 1978 in Phoenix, Arizona, and when Dave retired in 1990, Don became the full owner of Imperial Components. In 1995, the company bought Lena Builders in Northern Illinois and started Imperial Laminators in Northern Arizona. Don enjoyed working with his sons, Ben and Keith, in various roles within the company.

He also became a dedicated leader in the Structural Building Components Association (SBCA), then known as the Wood Truss Council of America (WTCA), but not without a little encouragement from Dave and friend Rip Rogers (Trussway, retired). “I remember a few of us were meeting in Dallas in the early years of WTCA and I encouraged Don to join us even though he was reluctant to get involved,” said Rogers. “When I dropped him off at the airport to go home, he said he would see me at the next meeting. From then on he was one of the greatest contributors to the association and the industry.”

Hershey eventually served as the only two-term President of WTCA (1992-1993), at a time when the association was struggling financially and was still striving to establish its own identity. His leadership could not have come at a better time. John Herring (A-1 Truss), who served as WTCA President just two years before him, said, “Don was a uniquely intelligent individual, who had the ability to guide and influence people in the necessary direction in a way that was completely unselfish. His fingerprints will be left on this industry forever.”

“We will always be grateful for Don’s guidance of the association through the extremely difficult period of the early 90’s,” added Kirk Grundahl, SBCA’s Executive Director. “Our staff relied on Don, not only for his leadership, but also for all the encouraging moral support he provided.”

In recognition of his effective leadership and sacrifice, Hershey was inducted into the SBCA Hall of Fame in 1995, and later was awarded the SBC Leadership Award. Awards aside, all of his contemporaries agreed Hershey had a single-minded dedication to the structural components industry. “Don Hershey took on every project with a commitment, dedication, energy and solid determination to do what was best for the industry,” said Bob Ward (Southern Components). “He was a man of high moral character who gave unselfishly of his time to the industry. I consider it an honor to have worked with him and known him all these years.”

Hershey was also a tireless innovator. He developed many new products, equipment and manufacturing methods for the structural components industry and holds two patents for specialized products. “Don developed ways to use trusses in aggressive ways that were different than anyone else thought of at the time,” said Mike Bugbee (Simpson Strong-Tie). “I will always remember him for selflessly working to promote the evolution of the industry and increasing the use of metal-plated trusses in new applications.”

Even in Hershey’s later years, he remained very involved in the industry he loved. In early 2006, he was quoted in an SBC Magazine article on the future of the industry saying, “We need to get involved in testing…to provide the membership the most cost effective methods of assembling our structural components.” Hershey went on to play an important role in the development and construction of the Structural Building Components Research Institute (SBCRI), the association’s state-of-the-art structural testing facility. It is fitting that one of Don’s sons, Keith Hershey, is the Director of R&D and Industry Projects and is a driving force behind the day-to-day operations of SBCRI and his son, Ben Hershey, served as President of SBCA in 2008.

Another peer of Don Hershey, Tom Manenti (MiTek), summarized his colleagues’ feelings best, “I am so sad for our collective loss. Our industry has not known a finer gentleman. I will personally miss the wisdom and guidance he has so freely given to all of us these many years. He was the epitome of innovation and courage.”

A memorial service for Don Hershey will be held January 7, 2012 at 12pm at Faith Bible Church in Glendale, Arizona, all are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, the Hershey family has requested that donations be made to the Don Hershey Memorial Fund, c/o Faith Bible Church, 17230 N 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85308.

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