Bill Coleman, president of VinylPlex, passed away last weekend unexpectedly. While the death of any leader in the community is unfortunate, Coleman was more than just a community leader. He was a successful representative of what this community is and can be.
First, he ran a good business. This is not to be overlooked. VinylPlex produces 75 million pounds of pipe each year. So far, more than 200,000 miles of VinylPlex pipe is in use throughout the Midwest.
As president, he saw both good times and bad, wise business moves and missteps, too. Coleman was no different from the rest of us: not always making the best decisions, but learning from them and moving forward, constantly striving for success. VinylPlex was always strongest with Coleman at the forefront.
Coleman was also notable for his patriotism, both on a grand scale and a minor scale. On a small scale, it seemed that whenever Morning Sun staff ran into him, he had an American flag on his lapel. On a larger scale, Coleman helped plant two large, lighted 80-foot flag poles in the Northeast Industrial Park.
That leads us to our next point. Coleman cared for the community through a commitment to education. One of those two flag poles stands at VinylPlex, but the other stands at the Fort Scott Community College construction trades building.
FSCC doesn't own that building. VinylPlex does. But Coleman heard that FSCC needed a building for its construction trades program. Most facilities under consideration were expected to cost upwards of $250,000, and FSCC had no state funds that could pay such a price tag.
Coleman saw the need and saw that he had the means to help. VinylPlex had an unused manufacturing building. For several years now, VinylPlex has rented the building to FSCC for the cost of $1 a year. Numerous students have used that building to learn carpentry, masonry and other construction trades. High school and middle school classes bring students annually to the location to show what FSCC can offer. And it wouldn't have been possible without Coleman's generosity.
"What's good for the community is good for VinylPlex," Coleman was quoted as saying years ago. And he didn't just say it, he showed it.
He will also be remembered for the way he cared about having a unified company that was involved in the community. For 10 years, VinylPlex finished its United Way efforts before any other organization. The commitment to the community has continued, as this year the group earned a platinum award, the highest level award, from the local United Way for having at least 80 percent of its employees participate in the campaign and at least a $100 per capita gift from its employees.
But while Coleman encouraged his company's participation, he took an additional step by being active in community organizations himself. Coleman was a leader, benefactor and board member of so many organizations, it makes one wonder where he fond the time. He was involved with the Children's Advocacy Center, Boy Scouts, SEK Humane Society, the Economic Development Advisory Committee, USD 250's Business and Education Alliance, PSU's Students in Free Enterprise, Salvation Army, Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Frontenac Rotary, Little Balkans Days, was a 32nd degree Mason and founded the Community Foundation of SEK.
Coleman exemplified Pittsburg. He was strong in business, proud of his home and country, committed to furthering education, and both encouraged his staff to support and himself directly supported the community. There will not be another Bill Coleman in this area, but people like him will always be in need.
You'll be missed, Bill.
Andrew Nash, for the Morning Sun