The plumbing industry has lost one of its great intellects.

This May, my good friend George Kaufman passed away. I was saddened to learn of his death because this signaled the end of an era. George, in his mid-80s, was the last of the grand masters of modern plumbing. He knew the likes of Wiley, Eaton and French. He studied the works of Hunter shortly after they were published. He and Milt Snyder spoke regularly. And he helped formulate an atmosphere of cooperation between researchers, contractors, engineers, manufacturers and inspectors.

Some of you may be saying, "The era is not over, Dr. Larry Galowin is still with us." That is true, Larry is doing very well in his mid-70s, but Larry came along well after George Kaufman. Even Larry learned a thing or two from George. Hence, Larry is part of the next generation of modern plumbing.

I first met George in 1977 when I got involved in the plumbing code business. At the time, George was co-chairman of the ANSI A40 Plumbing Code Committee. He was the representative of NAPHCC. George was also very active in IAPMO.

My boss, at the time, told me to learn the ropes of the code business by watching some of the masters. He told me that my time would come to stand up and testify, but first I had to watch. The first person he pointed out was George Kaufman. I remember vividly my boss's instruction. "Watch George Kaufman. When he gets up, he has something very important to say. When he speaks, everyone will listen, and they will always vote in his direction. He doesn't lose."

Sure enough, when George rose to speak, everyone listened. They knew the master was addressing the audience. When he was finished, the other side might just as well have sat down. They never won. George carried that much respect. He always told the truth, he always made sense, and he always listened to new ideas.

Over the years, as faces changed at code hearings, the new members didn't afford George the same respect I came to know. Attitudes changes and grand masters were challenged with politics, but George never stopped participating. He lost a few arguments, but never lost anyone's respect.

One of George's greatest gifts was that of being a motivator of youth. When Pat Higgins and I were in our 20s, George used to always call us the future of the industry. He would teach, coach and motivate us to work hard for the plumbing industry. We would sit around for hours listening to the stories George would tell.

George was a union contractor. The UA was in his blood. But it wasn't union, right or wrong. It was union, doing it right, telling you when something is wrong. He learned from experience but embraced the future. His enthusiasm for modern ideas and new technology was infectious.

Lessons Learned

One of my favorite stories about George occurred at a Plumbing Exposition. George was on the Board of Directors of the ASPE Research Foundation. He helped set up a demonstration model for the show. The model had four of these new fandagled 1.6-gpf water closets. There was a 3-inch drain line in clear plastic pipe. (Installed by a UA contractor, of course.) The model had different segments of pipe to demonstrate different flow parameters. One section of pipe was pitched about 3 inches per foot.

As the show was about to begin, George was speaking to a few of us standing around. He looked at this steeply pitched pipe and said, "We might have a problem with stoppages in this section of pipe. I'm afraid the liquid will be running away from the solids." I just smiled.

As the demonstration began, they flushed carrots, beets and peas. When the vegetables hit the steep section of pipe, they took off down the pipe, flying at a high speed. George looked over at me and said, "Well, I'll be. You knew that was going to happen, didn't you? You see, my apprenticeship instructor always taught us that if you pitched the pipe too much, the liquids would run away from the solids." I said to George, "My plumbing instructor said the same thing, but my engineering professor explained why this is a plumbing myth and would never happen." For the next hour we spoke about engineering principles. Here George was in his 70s learning new concepts so he could relay the information to others.

That is one of the legacies George Kaufman leaves behind. He had a willingness to learn. It didn't matter who he ran into. He knew he could learn something from everybody. He also freely shared his vast knowledge of the industry.

He worked with all segments of the industry. He saw the need for engineers to work with contractors, researcher work with inspectors, inspectors work with manufacturers, etc. I can never recall him ever cursing out one part of our industry decrying that another segment was smarter. Everyone had a role, and everyone was smart. We just all have to work together.

In George Kaufman's memory, I would encourage you to strive to work with everyone. If an engineer adds something to a project that you don't understand, don't curse her or him out. Ask them why they changed. Try to learn from the engineer. When an inspector challenges an installation, ask why the code requires such a change. When your responses are not adequate, negotiate to have the other person understand your position.

Never accept a statement like, "because I'm in charge," or "because I run the show."

In return, always provide a good reason for your actions. Give everyone your best and expect the best in return. If we all had George's attitude in life and in this profession, the world would be a better place. God bless you, George, I'm going to miss you.