The lovely and talented Kay, queen of my life, likes to say, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. It goes away faster as it gets closer to the end.” Well, guess my age is showing because 2009 just went by in what seemed like a flash. 

The lovely and talented Kay, queen of my life, likes to say, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. It goes away faster as it gets closer to the end.” Well, guess my age is showing because 2009 just went by in what seemed like a flash.

It was an interesting year in the roofing and construction industry and it was an interesting year for me personally. Being (officially) a senior citizen makes me prone to being a bit nostalgic, so for the last blog posting of the year think I will give it a bit of a review and throw in my Christmas Wish List for good measure.

When looking back at any year I cannot help but veer into what some might consider “regrets.” Not much usefulness in regrets but there were some things I would like to have changed if I had been wiser or perhaps just a bit luckier.

This year saw the passing of some folks that had a profound impact on my life. The co-founder (with his wife, Linda) of Habitat for Humanity International, Millard Fuller, passed away this year. Fuller taught me a number of lessons, but mainly what can come from determination and dedication to a cause. We met for the first time in the early 1990s and over the years I enjoyed a number of planned and chance meetings. Last time I saw Millard was when he delivered the keynote speech at the first Best of Success conference. He drew a well-deserved standing ovation from a room full of contractors. His life was remarkable and his legacy will live on.

Charlie Raymond was a roofing contractor in Florida. Back in the day I sold equipment to the four or five branches of his commercial roof-contracting firm. He was one of the toughest customers I ever had. He challenged me to be better. His legacy was his staunch support of the roofing industry. Two roofing associations (FRSA & NRCA) named their annual membership awards named for Raymond because he was an untiring cheerleader for association membership and his work brought both associations to new levels of excellence. We used to plan a couple of days together at his home in South Florida. I never managed to make the trip and now I wonder, “Why not?” and “Sure wish I had.”

Audrey Blank passed away just recently. Her husband, Earl, was likewise a customer of mine back in the day. He ran the best wholesale roofing distribution house in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Blank family traces its roots in the roofing industry to before the founding of the FRSA (of which they were a part) in 1922. Audrey worked in the business when I used to call on them and was a stalwart supporter of the FRSA who never missed their annual convention. Her support of the industry continued after Earl’s passing years ago and even after the family sold the business some years after that. She will be missed by many.

Sam Heyman, who for 25 years was the driving force behind GAF Materials Corporation, passed away last month. I do regret never having met Mr. Heyman. What I knew about him came primarily through the many senior executives that have been the “out front” managers of the roofing manufacturer that grew, under Heyman’s leadership, to be the largest in the country. I never really tried to get the interview that I always thought would be very interesting. My bad. I suppose my sense of this man was that he did not want to be interviewed for the trade press. His family and his team will carry on.

Dale and Kendall passed away this year. Most of you reading this blog would not know them but they were associates of mine. One ran one of our warehouse and delivery operations and the other ran a forklift. Both are sorely missed. I mainly miss their smiles and positive attitudes; cannot get enough of that.

The year 2009 will, for me, be the year when “going green” really hit a tipping point. The “movement” has been growing for years but this year there simply are not any roofing contractors left who are not talking “green” to their customers. This continues to be a real plus for the roofing industry as new products and systems are emerging like never before. And the world wants them. You could credit government programs and rebates, but this was going to happen regardless.

Also significant in 2009 - Social Media. Maybe not such a big thing in the roofing industry yet, but this phenomenon, a continuation of the Internet revolution, captured our imaginations in 2009 and will doubtless be an “A topic” for the foreseeable future.

While the economy was mired in recession in 2009, the roofing industry had both tough spots and bright spots. Storm work kept us busy in parts of the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and in the Rockies. Commercial roofing started to dry up as the housing crisis continued to drag on. Many contractors agree that some “cleaning up” of underperforming roofing contractors is not altogether bad.

Now here is my Christmas wish list. No stuff. We have a “no stuff” rule at our house. Any gift needs to be consumable in some fashion (i.e., gift certificate for a night out or any food/drink … or a ticket to a show). At our last move we found out we already had too much stuff and just do not need any more. So no stuff on this list:

First and most important, a safe end to 2009 and a 2010 where every roofing worker goes home from every roofing job every working day … in the same shape he was when the day began.

Peace on earth. Who the hell doesn’t want that?

A safe deployment to Iraq for my brother, Air Force Captain Damato. A gold oak leaf cluster might be nice too. Peace for his wife and kids while they miss their mate and dad. 

A liver for Mark. My son-in-law’s wait is getting very long now. Also wish for everyone to sign up to be an organ donor … that would be really nice.

A good life for my sister, Michelle, as she begins a new chapter. This wish is sort of already coming through, but hope it is going to be beautiful.

An MRI or scan or something that is completely free of any foreign growths for my friend, Keith.

A ticket out of the hospital for my friend, David. He does not look natural in there and I need him to help me do some stuff anyway.

A turnaround in the attitude of the movers and shakers we are waiting on to lead us out of this recession. Not the government, but small business leaders, whose efforts drive the economy this and every year.

Another year of observing and writing about the roofing industry coupled with an awesome and wildly successful year for all my associates at Roofing Contractorand BNP Media.