Foodservice Equipment Reports

In Memoriam: Industry Giant Ira Kaplan

Ira Kaplan, who served as an industry leader for decades and was a beloved friend and mentor to many, passed away November 18 after a long illness. He was 72.

Kaplan spent most of his industry career with his family’s Easton, Mass., manufacturing company, Servolift Eastern, advancing to helm it as president. In 2002 he formed a consulting firm, Aalex Corp./Equipment & Supplies Marketing LLC. Three years later, he founded Irinox USA, the American outpost of the Italian maker of blast chillers. He served as president until last year.

A man of many friends and many interests, Kaplan was deeply involved with every facet of the foodservice industry, including FCSI, FEDA, and SHFM, which recognized him with awards for ethics and leadership, and MAFSI, which honored him with its Market Mover Award. He sat on countless NAFEM committees, chaired the association’s show, served on the board, moved up the officer ranks, and was NAFEM president. He also received the William W. Carpenter Award, NAFEM’s highest honor.

Among his other endeavors, Kaplan was a patron and supporter of Johnson & Wales University, which awarded him an honorary doctorate.

His daughter, Shari, spoke at the November 20 service in Sharon, Mass. “Of all the words you could use to describe him, passionate is the word that encompasses everything Ira…..In everything he did, he was the eternal student, never being content with the status quo. His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable. His desire to make connections and facilitate "everything" is legendary.

“Even while being the quirky kid in the back of the lecture hall with his hand always up, he was also the consummate teacher. His mind was always searching, questioning, planning, strategizing and looking for the hidden solutions that no one else could even conceive of.  He delighted in catching people unawares, to make them think creatively.  How many of you were ever asked in an interview, `if you were a muffin, what flavor would you be?'”

His best friend, Ken Gill, cited Kaplan’s talent for forming associations and groups, including what was called “the Super Secret Foodservice Equipment Group. But his favorite,” Gill said at the service, “was NAAP, or National Association of Aging Presidents.” In addition to Gill and Kaplan, its members included industry leaders Mike Stack, Lew Burns, Don Follett, and Keith Paris. “For more than 30-plus years, we met twice a year for education and companionship. The remaining guys say `goodbye, comrade, until we all meet again someday for our next NAAP meeting.’”

Kaplan took time as well to pen his own obituary.

“I learned from my mother Shirley the love of art and music. To know that there is beauty around you even when facing difficult times, and the love of learning to be used in making a difference in other people's lives. From my father David, to keep calm when facing life challenges and keeping a smile in your heart and you overcome most challenges. Finally, from my wife Barbara, that if you have love in your life you are truly blessed. I have been blessed with Shari, Stephanie, Alexandra, Ava, and wonderful family and friends too numerous to list.”

Foodservice Equipment Reports Publisher Robin Ashton said, “Ira’s positive influence on the foodservice equipment industry cannot be overstated. He was a person that hundreds of people considered a close personal friend. I’ve counted myself lucky to be among that number for more than 35 years. I can honestly say I learned as much from Ira about foodservice and about life as any person I’ve known. It may be a cliché, but he will be sorely missed.”

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to MyBrothersKeeper.org or OldColonyHospice.org.

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