The Toledo, Ohio, area welcomed its share of glass wisdom late last month.
On July 27, a group of industry veterans got together for the now-annual “Old Guard Reunion,” which began as a small dinner gathering two years ago and has grown into a rather large event—as it remains informal and not backed by any association. More than 20 retired and active industry members, many joined by their spouses, convened for an afternoon of socializing at Stanley and Sharon Joehlin’s farm home in Perrysburg, Ohio.
The group then moved to nearby Belmont Country Club for a private cocktail hour and dinner, where the storytelling and reminiscing continued.
“These are all people who were part of each other’s network when they were active in the industry, or after they retired and moved on to do consulting work,” says Ren Bartoe of Vesuvius. “We all share this network, where we know each other and have helped each other along the way. So just because people are retired, it doesn’t mean the network can’t stay together.”
In 2014, Stanley and Sharon Joehlin and Bob and Nancy Brown initiated the get-together of longtime members of the industry, and those in attendance suggested extending an invite to more people in industry. The gathering doubled in size in 2015.
“It garnered some attention as other people heard about it and were asking, so Stan and Bob suggested we open it up to anyone who wants to join,” says Bartoe.
Bob Brown says he and Bartoe proposed the afternoon portion of the gathering be moved to the country club to not burden Sharon Joehlin with having to cater to a large crowd, but she insisted. “Sharon said, ‘Make it bigger,’” says Brown. So they did.
This year’s event brought industry members from all over the country—including Texas, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Illinois—to Perrysburg. “The reason we like to have it in Perrysburg is because that was a central point of where the glass industry in this country was organized and sitting,” says Brown. “A lot of people traveled a long way to get there.”
Bartoe totaled the combined years of glass industry experience among attendees to 905, which averaged more than 40 years per person. The group included Norm Nitschke, who Brown referred to as the “patriarch.”
“Norm is in his mid-90s, but he still looks the same to me as he did when he was active in the industry,” says Brown. “He set a very good example about doing what’s right for the industry, and we all just tried to follow along.”
The “Old Guard” plans to continue the annual get-together for years to come, and it will be open to anyone in the industry interested in joining.
“We’re not trying to make it a club of retired people, we’re just trying to make it a group of people who get along,” says Brown, noting that many business competitors of years past have formed bonds evident at the gathering. “We all wore different uniforms when we were active in business, but we all shared the same industry. We know the perils in it and it provided livelihoods for our family while working in the glass industry, so there’s a collegiality there that will be hard to break.”