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Tribute to Bill Sardo – “Mr. Pallet”
Bill Sardo has often been called “Mr. Pallet” because in addition to starting the NWPCA, he stood as the industry’s leader as it matured through the years.
By Edward C. Brindley
Date Posted: 2/1/2008
In January 1996, the Pallet Enterprise ran our first Industry Salute to Bill Sardo, who has unquestionably been the best known and most highly regarded leader in the pallet industry. At the age of 95, Bill passed away at 5 a.m. on the day after Christmas.
Bill Baldwin, his son-in-law, shared with me at the funeral, “Bill always said that he wanted to live to be 95. He accomplished his often stated desire.”
Sandy Campbell, who has been an active member of the pallet industry since he was a little boy attending with his father Alex, recently stated, “In June, 1947, Bill Sardo organized the National Wooden Pallet Manufacturers Association (NWPMA), the association that eventually grew to become the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA).” Initially the NWPMA was a part-time trade association, one of the 12 divisions of the National Wooden Box Association. Bill was named executive vice president of the NWPCA in January of 1954.
Bill’s rich educational background helped prepare him for his various leadership roles. He was a graduate of the School of Foreign Services of Georgetown University, and he attended Princeton University and Le Bureau des Etudes International of Geneva, Switzerland. Bill spoke several languages fluently. As a world traveler he made over 100 trips to Europe throughout his life and led many European tours for his friends.
Bill Sardo has often been called “Mr. Pallet” because in addition to starting the NWPCA, he stood as the industry’s leader as it matured through the years. From my perspective, nobody has meant as much to the pallet industry as has Bill Sardo. Long time members of the NWPCA are aware of what he has meant to the association and its members. People who have not been active in the association might not be aware of what he has meant to the overall industry. Bill was a visionary. For example, I can recall how Bill predicted many years ago that some day products would be sold off of pallets in racks in large warehouse stores. He forecasted this many years before any of us had ever seen or heard of big box stores.
Rick LeBlanc shared with me, “Bill was very active in encouraging pallet pool formation in both Europe and Canada. He once told me that ironically, in spite of success internationally he had a lot more trouble convincing U.S. people of the value of pooling.
“Another battle he waged was with the Teamsters. Initially the Teamsters were dead set against palletization of freight, convinced that it would cost them jobs compared to the floor loading of merchandise into trailers. Bill worked to convince them that with the help of palletization, the union members ‘would become chauffeurs rather than laborers’. Eventually he persuaded them.”
I learned more about Bill at his funeral mass from Monsignor Vaghi. He said, “Bill was ever so faithful and loyal to his family, to Jeannette and Evelyn, to his broad family. After the motto of his beloved Gonzaga High School, he was truly a ‘man for others.’ As a man of deep and devout Catholic faith, Bill was faithful to the Eucharist…He was a lector during the Saturday 5 p.m. mass here for 30 years. He was one of our most faithful and beloved parishioners, a founding father of this great church of the Little Flower.”
The Monsignor continued, “Bill spoke often of his great, great grandfather from Catania, Sicily who came to Washington with two other musicians from Sicily in the early 19th century. At the request of President Jefferson, who had a love for music and art, Bill’s great, great grandfather came here and founded what later became the marine band.”
Bill has been a long-time friend of the Brindley family and the pallet industry as a whole. Although his health has kept him from being active in the association over the last few years, his accomplishments in the Industry are without question. He has served as president emeritus and a member of the NWPCA Board since his retirement in the early 80s.
The Virginia Tech Sardo Pallet Lab, the center of pallet research worldwide, was named in memory of Bill Sardo in 1977 when industry money built the facility.
Cards of condolence may be sent to Evelyn Sardo, Bill’s wife, at Evelyn Sardo, 5555 Friendship Boulevard, #303, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. The family is still deciding on a memorial fund.
I am personally planning to recognize Bill’s life and contributions by making a donation in his name to the Kenya mission project that is being planned by the pallet industry for this summer. I made this decision because I know where Bill’s heart was on this mission trip. Shortly after Chaille’s editorial and article appeared in the November 2007 issue of the Enterprise, Bill called our office to express his appreciation and support of the coming mission trip. I know how dedicated he was because he made a generous contribution to the Kenya mission trip.
One of the most amazing things about Bill is how sharp his mind was right up to his last day. Those who knew him know how smart he was, but the way his mind stayed so crisp and his perceptions so exciting was indeed unusual. During his last years, his physical vision had failed, but his wit and intellect were keen to the end.
Many readers remember John Healy who served as president of the NWPCA for longer than anybody other than Bill. John, who lives in the Washington D.C. area, stayed in contact with Bill. At the funeral he shared with me how he visited him several days before Christmas. Concerned about his health at that time, John came back on Christmas Eve. Bill’s health was failing, but his mind stayed sharp. Since Bill’s sight had failed him several years earlier, he liked for people to read to him. John told me, “You will be interested to know that the last thing he wanted me to read to him at this last visit was his new issue of the Pallet Enterprise. As usual he absorbed what I read like a sponge. He was Mr. Pallet right up to the end.”