I met Al Jones on January 14, 1980 on my first day in the pump industry. Before actually seeing him, I heard a booming "Al Jooooonnnnneeessss" as he answered his phone in his office.
For many of those reading this that knew Al, you know exactly what I mean when I mention the uniqueness of his voice. It is something I will never forget, and will truly miss. I was even more surprised when I poked my head into his spartan-like office those many years ago and saw a Cheryl Tiegs poster on his closet door. Written across her navel were the words "Lordy Lordy, Al is Forty". It turned out to be a birthday gift from his wife Nancy.... the gift that kept on giving. Of course as a 26-year-old, I remember thinking, "Man, this guy is old!" With an unlit cigar chewed beyond recognition in the corner of his mouth, I got my first view of that Al Jones grin as he welcomed me to the team. We shook hands and then we started to work... and work... and work some more. I have never known anyone with Al's work ethic. He started at 6:00 in the morning and he kept at it until 6:30 at night or later, and he dragged all of us along with him.
Although he had spent many years as an application engineer for Ingersoll Rand Pumps, this move to a new, fledgling company thrust him into a combination AE, Office Manager, Human Resources Manager, and The No Money Man. Al earned his legendary reputation as the No Money Man. Like the stingy paper towel dispensers at the airport, you had to literally pull every dollar for capital, bonuses, pay raises, and commissions out of him. He could be the proverbial doomsday man at a moment's notice. He never wanted to spend money… on anything. He was "The Drag" in our company. On the other side of the equation were partners like myself, that were more, let's see, how do I put it, "sales types". We never saw a project or opportunity that wasn't worth our "investment". We became "The Thrust". Although I didn't think so at the time, hindsight makes it clear that this was a pretty good combination. Successful businesses cannot run on thrust alone. There needs to be a good dose of drag… and Al dutifully and happily provided it. Thrust may be glamorous, and Drag is boring, but trust me, you need some Drag.
As tough as Al came across regarding the company's money, when it came to his personal time and money, he was one of the most generous men I have ever met. Whether it was talking through the family problems of an employee, floating a loan to someone in a financial bind, taking his extended family on vacations, or simply donating money to various causes, Al was always there to help anyone and everyone. The notorious No Money Man transformed into a cuddly puppy when it came to his own time and funds, shifting right back into his pit bull mode when it came to protecting the company's money.
When Al moved on to retirement, he made a smooth transition. I was amazed. I didn't think he could, but he kicked back marvelously. He and Nancy traveled the world, mostly via cruises. This past Saturday, Al and Nancy were in London at the conclusion of a Corvette Club Cruise in Northern Europe. Al had a couple of pints at a pub with friends while chewing on his ever present cigar, went up to his room to take a nap before supper, and died in his sleep next to Nancy. Cigars, cars, beer, friends, cruises, and his beloved Nancy. What a combination. I hate to see Al go, but everyone has a time, and I can't think of a more appropriate departure.
Although I had only seen him a couple times a year over the past decade, he always had a big smile, a strong hand shake and a "Hi Buddy" (my official Al Jones nickname) to greet me. I will miss that greeting, and I'll miss our conversations. Al's legacy will live on through the lives that he touched---and there were many of them. I know that many of you will join me in saying "Good bye, Al, you made a difference."