John R. Lindahl Sr., 84, former chairman and CEO of State Industries, Ashland City, Tenn., died July 5. He was born in 1922 in Malvern, Ark. His family later relocated to Nashville, where his father, H.W. Lindahl Sr., started an appliance distribution business.
John R. Lindahl Sr. served as a bomber pilot in the Army Air Force during World War II, flying 64 missions over Africa and Europe. When he returned, he started his own business, making coal-fired stoves in a Nashville garage, with capital provided by his father. The company was established as State Stove and Manufacturing Co. in 1946.
In 1948, State changed its focus to production of electric water heaters. Gas water heaters were added to the mix in 1954. The company was incorporated in 1955, at which time John Lindahl Sr. became president and his brother, Herb Lindahl, was named vice president.
The company relocated its plant to Ashland City, Tenn., in the early 1960s and changed its name to State Industries in 1974. State grew to become one of the world's largest manufacturers of residential and commercial water heaters and water system tanks.
In 1991, John R. Lindahl Sr. started the Lindahl Foundation Scholarship Program, launched with his personal funds. The program targeted children of State employees but was also open to any student within a 41-county area in middle Tennessee seeking to continue his or her education beyond high school.
Supply House Times named John R. Lindahl Sr. to its PHCP Industry Hall of Fame in 1993. He was recognized for his “hands-on, face-to-face style,” his “passion for people,” his “openness to the insights and ideas of others” and “a restless and inventive mind always on the prowl for ways to enhance his business, no matter their source.”
“John was a pioneer and an icon in the water heater industry. We have all lost a good friend and role model, and I know I speak for the entire A.O. Smith family when I say he will be missed.” said Ajita Rajendra, president of A.O. Smith Water Products Co.
Seth Shepard, 89, of Elk Grove, Calif., died July 14. He was the editor-in-chief and co-publisher of Contractor magazine, where he worked from 1955 until his retirement in 1984.
He spent his early years in Winnetka, Ill., where he got an early start on his nearly 60-year career as a journalist by operating a home basement print shop where he wrote, published, edited and printed a small-sized monthly, The Comprehensive Gossip, as a teen.
His professional career in journalism began in 1935 as a reporter for the Capitol Times in Madison, Wis., and continued for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago News Bureau through 1938. From 1939 to 1942, and again from 1946 to 1949, he was the financial news reporter and copy desk writer for the Chicago Daily News.
After editing a trade magazine for the plumbing-heating-cooling industry from 1949 to 1955, he spent the rest of his career on Contractor as editor-in-chief, columnist and co-publisher. After retiring in 1984, he continued working from his home as a columnist and consultant for Contractor until 1993.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Mancini Shepard, his four children, four grandchildren, and his sister, Jane Shepard Boyd.