November 15, 2010
We mourn the loss of three great manufacturers’ reps during the past couple months-- George W. “Bill” Peters, Harris Dux and Warren Edward Johnson. All three were pioneers and exemplars of the rep function in foodservice equipment and supplies. All three sold untold millions of dollars worth of E&S in their careers, and in doing so, changed innumerable lives for the better.
I knew Bill the best. When I first was chief editor at that other equipment and supplies magazine, Bill, a co-founder of Peters & Peters of Atlanta, was in the officer track at the Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry. He served as MAFSI president in 1984. He and his friends, Atlanta competitor Bryant Curley and John Dunne from Texas, were the MAFSI “officer corps” in those days.
The four of us would get together for dinner at MAFSI or other industry meetings, often with his close friend, consultant Michael Johnson, FCSI, and talk long into the night about the industry, about books we’d read, about politics. We had a riot, especially with the politics. Let’s just say Bill leaned far to the right of the rest of us, and would berate us for our ignorance. He was a libertarian, a “Tea Partier” before the Tea Party existed, and didn’t care who knew it.
He brought that'same self assurance and intensity to his job, which for him was simple: Get his factories’ products spec’d and hold those specs through installation. God help you if you tried to change a spec on him.
I had a wonderful time with Bill for decades. I count him as a great friend. He was larger than life. I’ll miss him greatly.
I didn’t know Harris and Warren as well, though I met them both through the years. Both were a generation ahead of Bill and me. Which means they helped create the independent rep function in this industry. Both were Minnesota boys and started their careers working for local high-tech companies. Harris worked at Litton Microwaves, Warren at John Control. Warren went on to work at Blakeslee and Hockenberg’s, the dealership. Warren started the rep firm Warren E. Johnson Co. in 1958. Harris bought into the North Star agency in 1968. The two men were fixtures of the E&S industry for decades in the Twin Cities and throughout the upper Midwest.
All three of these men had broad knowledge of their factories, their products and the industry and helped thousands of dealers, consultants, operators and others. It’s a great legacy, and I am honored to have known all three. Our condolences to their families and friends.