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Patrick S. Parker, 1929 – 2005

The illustrious and industrious Pat Parker was only six years old when he’d play at his parent’s Cleveland plant. His first job at Parker was working in the foundry, pouring funeral urns destined for graveyards in Europe.

Parker said, “I spent a summer there with the temperatures at 105, 100 degrees, pouring hot metal and running a jackhammer and things like that....

...and at the ripe old age of 16, I figured, “Maybe I’ll keep on going to school.” That, he did, coming back right out of Harvard, continuing to work in the off-season.

Always one to roll up his sleeves, Pat said, “By 1948, two summers later, in the machine shop, we had received a contract from General Electric. We built, and I was one of the ones who actually machined, and a couple of us tested...

...the first fuel nozzles for the first jet engines ever flown in the United States.”

Pat worked on the first Parker acquisition in 1950, the Eaton Screw Co. ...

 ...kick-starting the whirlwind trend of acquiring businesses that complemented and expanded the company’s expertise and offerings—a trend that strongly continues today. A critical expansion of the company took place in 1957, with the acquisition of Hannifin Co.

By the late 1950s, Parker’s revenues had risen to about $25 million.

Pat became a director of the company in 1960. (“Mom decided that it might be nice if she had me around to take some of the responsibility.”)

In 1968, when he became president, revenues were $197 million and, according to Pat, “We were having fun doing it.” By 1966, Parker made it to the Fortune 500. With seven more acquisitions under its belt by the company’s 70th anniversary in 1988, revenues exceeded $2 billion in sales.

Following in the renaissance-style footsteps of his parents, Pat not only felt the business was fun, but was also an avid sailor. When at the helm in Cleveland, Pat’s office was decorated as a ship-captain’s quarters. His office is still used today as a conference room, continuing the voyage that is both business and life, according to Pat.  Forming the floor of the office are oak planks, originally cut in the 1690s for the British Navy, slanted at the walls to suggest a hull. When not sailing, he could be found skiing, or riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle—often to charity or corporate events.

From this Parker article, “Pat claimed in later years to have learned all that was necessary for success in the sandbox of his elementary school on Cleveland’s East Side. The ‘sandbox rules’ as he called them included notions of fair play, leadership among peers, and honesty that became the fabric of his life and of the organization he eventually led.”

Employee empowerment? Continuous improvement? Pat was there in the beginning, and an innovator in both. His legacy is that of an entrepreneur, hard worker, and humanitarian.

Talk to most anyone at Parker’s Cleveland headquarters today, and you’ll find that Pat Parker is not only remembered with a smile, but sorely missed and dearly respected. Now that’s a legacy.

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