The roofing industry remembered Kevin Gwaltney for his passion for the trade, love of family and youthful leadership following his death late last month.
The 45-year-old owner and president of Diamond Roofing died surrounded by family and friends at home in Dodge City, Kan., on Jan. 29 after a brief illness. He was honored at a memorial and graveside service Feb. 2 in his hometown, according to his obituary.
Gwaltney is survived by his wife of 19 years, Dr. Jordan Gwaltney; daughters Madison, 16, Alyssa, 13, and Raegan, 8; his mother, Patricia Gwaltney; sisters Laura Gwaltney Mead, Monica Cameron (Marc) and Andrea Platt (Ryan); and several nieces and nephews.
Reaction from the roofing industry started to pour in as the industry coped with losing one of its bona-fide young and emerging leaders.
Gwaltney was a fifth-generation native of Dodge City, and represented his hometown proudly in athletics both at the high school and collegiate levels. At 6-foot 8-inches, Gwaltney made his presence known on the basketball court, where he was a valuable member of his Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team throughout high school and helped lead Dodge City Community College to a Jayhawk Conference championship, according to his obituary.
He played one season at Wichita State University and then two years at Fort Hay State University before focusing on another passion – roofing. After earning his degree in business/finance at Kansas State University, he fulfilled a childhood goal of joining the family business and dreamed about establishing a roofing legacy in and around his hometown. He got his opportunity to make those key decisions much sooner than expected following the death of his father, Rick.
And he did so right from the start, said Kevin Kennedy, CEO and founder of Beacon Exit Planning, who consulted with Gwaltney shortly after the tragedy.
“Kevin, who was 34 at the time, was left to run two roofing operations, and I remember him saying ‘I not only lost my father but my best friend and mentor,’” Kennedy said. “’Dad would call me every day at 4 p.m. and we would talk for about an hour about my day, and he would coach me.’”
Without a true succession plan in place, colleagues, competitors – and the roofing industry as a whole – jumped in to help out. Diamond continued to grow, as did Gwaltney professionally. He became active in local and national roofing associations, ascending to president of the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA) in 2019. He remained an active board member with the MRCA and was also a board member of the National Roofing Contractors Association, where he served on several committees.
“The rest is history,” Kennedy said. “Kevin grew into a very astute businessman, growing his companies into a regional player besides being a well-respected industry leader.”
Gwaltney's activism drove him to discover and explore his desire to push the roofing industry forward as a profession.
“I knew Kevin for a number of years through the MRCA,” wrote attorney Gary Auman, long-time counsel for the MRCA, on the Roofing Contractor LinkedIn page shortly after Gwaltney’s death was announced. “He was a dynamic leader in his years in multiple leadership positions. I will miss his fresh ideas and passion for this industry.”
Others in the industry echoed those thoughts via social media after news of Gwaltney’s death circulated.
“He was a dynamic, young leader. I know he’ll be sorely missed,” posted Ryan Groth, president of Sales Transformation Group.
Gwaltney’s ability to turn tragedy to success with the help of other industry leaders remains part of what inspired the creation of RC’s Best of Success conference, and helped crystalize the event’s mission.
“Everyone jumped in to help (Kevin) any way they could. They helped guide his decisions and helped the entire family through an unbelievably difficult time,” RC Publisher Jill Bloom said from the stage while kicking off the conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., last December. “It was all about the relationships Kevin, his dad and his family fostered.”
Gwaltney was part of RC’s inaugural class of Young Guns, an annual feature that highlights emerging industry leaders under age 40. He said he always believed the roofing industry was immensely important to him and that he wanted to be part of the family business ever since his dad launched it when he was 2 years old.
“Roofing is in my blood and is my trade and I am very proud of that,” he told RC for that feature in 2012, barely a year after the taking the reins of the company.
He also recognized the importance of being an example to draw other young talent into the profession.
“It is important, as a roofing professional, [that] we run our companies with the highest integrity and professionalism,” he said. “We all have the responsibility to improve the industry and make it attractive to the next generation to become involved with integrity and professionalism.”
Despite his success and unquestioned drive to accomplish his goals, it was Gwaltney’s calm and humble demeanor that left its mark on others in the roofing business.
“One of the things I loved most about Kevin is that he always approached business and leadership with a humble and kind energy,” posted Elizabeth Marcus, director of marketing with EagleView Technologies on the Roofing Contractor LinkedIn page.
According to his obituary, Gwaltney contributed generously to his local church and community through local sports, as well as the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo. He was also active in the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages people to send memorials in Gwaltney's honor to the Hospice of the Prairie in care of the Swaim Funeral Home.