Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Story of a Creator

My father passed away on April 6th and my family concluded the memorial and wake this weekend. While it sucks to lose my dad, we all pulled together and having everything well planned really has made this as smooth as these things can go. My father was a great guy and I was able to use what little skill I have in writing to come up with the following.

The Story of a Creator

James A.  Conley

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, let there be light and there was light. 

Genesis describes God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh.  I believe that God has a special place in his heart for those who use his gifts to create.

James A.  Conley was a creator, starting with a new type of water jet engine for powerboats to a better way of cutting insulation for heating duct.  He has patented six inventions and implemented numerous innovations during his time as President of Vicon Incorporated.   His ideas and inventions led to the employment of nearly two dozen people which helped create the means to provide for their families and to pursue their dreams.   His legacy lives on in the products and employees of Plasma Automation and Vicon Machinery.  Together employing nearly 50 people and with customers across the globe.

But my father lived life beyond his inventions.  He was born in 1927 to Adele B. and James G. Conley.  He grew up on Hiawatha Street on the North Side of Pittsburgh, PA.  He fondly remembers playing with his neighborhood friends, scaling down the cliffs to the Allegheny River in the summer and sledding on the nearby hills in the winter.   He enjoyed the visits to his beloved Boucek grandparents.

Later his brother Robert J.  Conley was born and the family spent their summers in tents and cabins around Geneva-on-the-Lake in Ohio.   As he grew older he began to help his father with his coal stoker business.  My father graduated high school during World War II and joined the Navy in 1945.  He was in San Francisco when V-J day was announced and he remembered fondly the ensuing celebrations.

He returned back east and the family moved to Miami, Florida. There my father’s love of boating, especially powerboats, blossomed and he started racing powerboats for the Miami Outboard Club along the east coast.   It was during this time that my grandparents bought a plot of a land and some cottages on Conneaut Lake in order to rent them.  After helping to get the rental business going he briefly attended college and then became a sheet metal worker.  He still helped his family from time to time and developed a close knit group of friends at Conneaut Lake.    He was known for his sailing parties.  While not a drinker he was known to be a fun guy to hang around with.

It was during this time, that he met my mother at Conneaut Lake and fell in love.  They married and five years later my sister was born.  Later came my brother David, and then me.   My father formed Vicon Inc with a friend and when their plan for marketing a boat engine fell through my father took over sole ownership of the company.  After a decade of travelling to various work sites as a journeyman sheet metal worker, he reopened Vicon as a fiberglass fabrication shop.

During this time he worked with my mother as coach of the YMCA/YWCA swimming team.   Not only coaching my sister but an entire generation of Meadville swimmers.  He helped the YWCA build the lockers for their new pool and I remember the signatures of both my parents and my sister being placed on tiles on the wall of the swimming pool.   Later he became part of the Meadville Figure Skating club and began to skate competitively.

Then one day in the early 80s my father was drawing out a piece of ductwork for a small job he took on as a favor for a friend.  My brother walked by and saw what my father was doing and said that his new Radio Shack Model I computer could plot that out ten times faster than my father could.  My father laughed at this so my brother looked at my father's books and then proceeded to create a program that plotted the very pattern that my father was making on printer paper.  It was not just ten times faster, it was a hundred times faster.

Impressed, my father and brother went to a machinery show and saw how others were using computers and mechanized plasma torches to layout and cut patterns for heating and air conditioning ductwork.  My brother David felt the programs he saw were poorly written, my father thought the machines were poorly made and way too expensive for what they were doing.  Together my father and my brother built the first Vicon HVAC plasma cutting machine.

From then on the business of Vicon Inc was no longer fiberglass but building and selling plasma metal cutting machines.  The company struggled in its early years but with my mother running the business and sales end, my dad building machines, and my brother writing software and soldering electronics the company soon carved out a successful niche in the industry.   Today, the company they founded continues in operation and is #1 in its market.

In retirement, my father traveled with my mother around the world, knew the joys of his grandchildren, James and Gregory, bought and operated a boat, and once again relaxed with a close knit group of friends.  He enjoyed the company of his son-in-law Kevin and his daughter Jaime.

Yes my father was a creator, not just of metal and livelihoods, but of love and family.   He taught others how to excel.  Not in just making a better machine but how to better themselves.   Most of all despite whatever setbacks he suffered, he never gave up, he always pushed on, he was always thinking of ways to move forward.

To create, once more, again.


ravencrowking said...

I am sorry for your loss.

Paul Wolfe said...

Sorry to hear it, Rob. He sounded like a great man and father.

Tim Shorts said...

Great tribute Rob. I'll talk to you soon.

Anthony Hunter said...

Condolences on your loss, sir. But a beautiful tribute.

Mel said...

You've done your father proud.

Bard said...

I'm very sorry for your loss, Rob. Your father sounds like a truly remarkable individual.

FrDave said...

May his memory be eternal.

Paul said...

Sorry for your loss. Your dad sounded like a good guy.

Erik Tenkar said...

Nicely done Rob. Your father would be proud. All the best to you and your family.

Joseph Bloch said...

All my thoughts are with you.

Martin R. Thomas said...

That was such a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing it to us.

I recently lost my mom very unexpectedly back in February and also just recently wrote a tribute to her on my own blog, so I feel a special connection with what you're going through.

I've found that no words really help, but it's still nice to hear them, so please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.

All my best to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Rob, and a moving tribute to your dad.

Grouchy Chris said...

Well said. May we all have someone to speak so eloquently of us after we're gone.

Joe Bardales said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Rob. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Renee Bork said...

I don't know why I was Googling "Conley's Cottages Conneaut Lake" tonight. Then I found your grandparents' names and Googled them. I have some really fond memories of my family vacationing there in the 1950's, 60's and maybe even the early 70's. I remember your sister swimming across the lake beside a boat. Sorry to hear about the loss of your father.