As most of the industry already knows, former ISSA executive director Jack D. Ramaley passed away January 20, 2018. He was 97 years old. It was a great loss for all who knew him whether as a friend, a mentor, or a boss.
“Jack was one of the best executive directors anyone could hope for,” says ISSA Building Operations Director Joan Cooke, who was hired by Ramaley more than 40 years ago. “He was a kind, fair, and enthusiastic gentleman who made the office a better place. He wanted us all, including himself, to be team players. He wouldn’t ask staff to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself. He set a wonderful example for us. He was truly a wonderful leader and will be greatly missed.”
History in the Making
After graduating from Penn State University in 1942 and serving as a naval officer in the South Pacific in World War II, Ramaley worked for a variety of companies, including Alcoa, Dayton Malleable Iron Co., and Sidney Aluminum Products, Inc. But his true calling came in 1958, when he joined Breuer Electric Manufacturing Co., a manufacturer of commercial floor machines and vacuums, as zone sales manager. It was then that he fell in love with the industry, a love affair that would last for more than 60 years.
By 1969, Ramaley had worked his way up at Breuer to vice president of sales. It was the same year he joined ISSA. Three years later, he was elected ISSA treasurer (1972-74). In 1975, having finished his term on the ISSA board, he left Breuer to serve ISSA full time as the association’s executive director, a position he held for the next 14 years.
During his tenure, the association flourished, growing from 1,600 manufacturer and distributor firms to more than 3,000, cementing ISSA’s position as the leading trade association for the cleaning industry. Ramaley was also the force behind ISSA buying its first headquarters in Lincolnwood, IL, forecasting the financial benefits of the association owning its own facility.
“Jack had great insight,” recalls Cooke. “I remember back in
1987 how he tried to implement the Expoclean show, bringing manufacturers, distributors, and end customers together. It’s unfortunate that this was cancelled only to be reinvented several years later.”
Ramaley officially retired from ISSA in 1987. However, in 1990, he returned upon request to serve as interim executive director while the board searched for a new executive director. Once the board found its candidate, former ISSA Executive Director John Garfinkel, Ramaley spent more than a year helping his protégé settle into his position.
“Jack was an amazing mentor, “says Garfinkel. “He was passionate about the industry and its members, thoughtful, and helpful to all. He was an exceptional leader and one of those rare individuals who never had an unkind word to say about anyone. He was a true gentleman who will sorely be missed by all who had the fortune to know him.”
Ramaley continued to serve ISSA as a consultant and as assistant secretary of the ISSA Foundation, for which he worked tirelessly right up until his death. In 1977, to recognize and thank him for his commitment and service, ISSA presented Ramaley with the ISSA Industry Distinguished Service Award. In 1986, the award name was changed to the Jack D. Ramaley Industry Distinguished Service Award in his honor. In 2001, the ISSA Board of Directors, through the ISSA Foundation, created the Jack D. Ramaley Designated Scholarship, which is presented annually.
Ramaley’s license plates read “MR ISSA” and indeed he was. Ask him a question about the industry or ISSA, and he would not just give you the “what” but the specific who, when, and where with the colorful background to tie them together as any truly good historian. In fact, when ISSA wanted to produce its 75th anniversary yearbook, the publishers turned to the only source they knew they could trust.
Ramaley was an amazing industry leader and as others have attested “a true gentleman.” His influence will continue to be felt within ISSA and the industry for years to come.