Volume 47, Issue 9 - September 2012
The Presence of Eminence
This issue of USGlass magazine is dedicated to the memory of Shirley W. Palmer-Ball of Palmer Products, who died late last month at the age of 82.
There are very few people in life you meet like him. And when you do, you know right away that you are in the presence of eminence, because not only their words, but their actions, tell you so.
If you had the privilege of knowing Mr. Palmer-Ball, you would know very quickly that he was a delightful fusion of highly principled ethics and the finest of Southern manners. That didn’t mean he never got mad or indignant, but there was a 99.9 percent chance that whatever wrong he was fighting really was exactly that. And he had a zest for life and a robust sense of humor to boot.
It’s appropriate that this be the issue dedicated to him as it is being distributed at the Glassbuild America Show (see pages 56-76). Palmer Products was one of the first exhibitors at this show’s precursor, known simply as the “glass convention.” His attendance there in his signature red lab coat was a fixture of the show for many years. He and his company supported national and regional education by sponsoring a number of such events over the years. What few people knew is that he often got to these shows by driving thousands of miles. He absolutely detested flying and would do most anything to avoid it.
Way back in the early 1980s, I got to conduct an in-depth industry legend-type interview with him. One of the highlights was getting to see his “hobby room,” which was actually a garage that stored more than 13 vintage vehicles at that time. They were beauties all and he loved collecting them.
But his real treasures were the members of his family: his wife of 57 years, Helen, and their six children—Lawrence, Elizabeth, Missy, Connie, Ginny and Chris, most of whom work for the company even today—and his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
He brought Palmer Products to new heights in his 50 years in the glass industry. The Louisville, Ky., company originally was founded by his father and is known in the industry for its line of mirror adhesives.
“Within the glass industry, I would like to be remembered as someone who would not compromise my standards and always worked to make a good product better,” he had said in a 2002 interview with this magazine. “I want to be remembered for the excellence of my company’s products and as someone who worked to educate installers on the best and safest way to install a mirror. That also translates into my life in general. I really believe that if something is worth doing it is worth doing well.”
“Dad was so influential in the glass industry because he was always thinking of what was right for the industry as a whole, not just what was right for Palmer Products,” said his son Lawrence. “He was a people person and loved the friendships he made and felt a real connection to others within the glass industry.”