Foodservice Equipment Reports

Our Friend Ira

How do you write an obit for one of your very best friends? After a lovely, standing-room-only memorial service for Ira Kaplan on Sunday, Nov. 20, Ken Gill, Kimberley Rimza, her daughter Nicole and I went to dinner in Boston’s North End. Jan and Beth were already headed home. After a while, Ken, who considers Ira his best friend, asked us all to tell Ira stories. One of the best came from Nicole, who mentioned how Ira was always sending her dolls and stuffed animals and other presents. I laughed because he would do the same with our kids. The cliché about “outrageous acts of kindness” is one way to describe Ira for those who didn’t know him.

I believe Ira taught me more about the foodservice equipment business, both directly and indirectly, than anyone, even Ken. He also taught me a great deal about life and how to live it. He was a Catherine’s Wheel of energy and ideas. You’d meet him for lunch and he’d have 10 or 20 things you should know or do. It could be overwhelming. But it was always presented in a way you knew was meant with your well-being in mind.

Simple story about Ira not many people know. After Eastern Servolift, the family business, was sold, Ira worked as a consultant. One of his clients was Dinex. At some industry meeting in 2004, Ira was anxious to have lunch with Rich Chrampanis and me. “You guys should create a magazine just for healthcare foodservice,” he told us excitedly. “Just what you do in FER, the product comparisons , the kitchen designs, but just for healthcare.” We went back and kicked it around with Brian Ward and Beth Lorenzini. Everyone thought it a great idea. We launched FER’s Focus on Healthcare Foodservice the next year and we’ve published it ever since.

Brian, our founding editor, reminded me last week of another “Ira impact.” Ira urged Brian to get involved with Food Chain, as it was then known, later Second Harvest.  He did so and together with Bill Kinney, who was then at Prince Castle, got the idea for the biennial “Hospitality Hogs” motorcycle rides to The NAFEM Show. Over five rides from 1999 to 2007, they raised  $350,000 or so for Second Harvest. As Brian said, “As in ‘It's a Wonderful Life,’ Ira probably never knew the ripple effects he could take credit for.” Ira’s ripples often became very big waves.

I have so many Ira memories, from tempting each other down double-blue ski runs (we weren’t great skiers) at Deer Valley, Utah, during the annual Gill Marketing ski trips, to his getting together an intimate group of his friends from across the industry to help Irv Bernstein at Baring, and helping create what we called the “Super Secret Equipment Meeting.” Memories of the time he bought our youngest son Sam an ornate sculptured train locomotive (Sam was a train boy) and of Ira working like a dog at The NAFEM Show in 2015, when he was already ill.

I have scores of these stories. And I’m sure you do too. Send one to me at and we’ll find a way to post them all. Just let us know it’s OK to go public with it.

Rest in peace, my friend. We miss you already.


Robin Ashton


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