We should all hope to do as well as Neil Tillotson.
Tillotson died Oct. 17. It was a lot more than his age, 102, that set him apart from the masses. In this time of conflict, flag-waving and fear of terrorism, he stood as someone who lived the American dream.
The product of a broken home who entered the working world at 16, Tillotson rode with the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry and General John Pershing in pursuit of Pancho Villa. During the Great Depression, he virtually invented the toy balloon business, and founded what today is a multimillion-dollar rubber company. He went on to invent the nitrile rubber glove and the first automated rubber dipping line, was amazingly successful in real estate, and in founding and spinning off companies. He ran the company that bore his name right up until his death.
The world knows him primarily for another feat. Since the early 1960s, he was the first person in America to cast a ballot in the presidential primary, in little Dixville Notch, N.H.
Tillotson was an easy choice as the Rubber & Plastics News Executive of the Year Award last year. It wasn't nostalgia that won him the honor; it was the very American approach to business that he practiced with success for decades. He started with nothing, worked hard, planned ahead but believed in flexible thinking. "You have to be careful with planningùdo too much and you box yourself in. You can box your imagination in, too," he said in an interview last year. Words to remember.