LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Sept. 9, 2011)—Edward J. Wagner, the one-time managing director of the American Retreaders' Association and a life-long tire and retreading industry veteran, died Sept. 7 in hospice care in Louisville. He was 87.
Wagner retired from his post at the ARA in 2000 following a career that covered more than 50 years as a tire dealer, retreader, sales executive and association executive and industry advocate. He was involved with the ARA—which later became the International Tire & Rubber Association and then was part of the merger that created the Tire Industry Association— or more than 20 years.
Wagner's tire industy career began when he was a teenager, working in his family's tire dealership, Fort Western Tire Co. in Augusta, Maine. Wagner was with the Army Air Force during World War II and then studied at Boston University before joining Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.'s management training program in Akron.
Thereafter he spent time at Armstrong Rubber Co., the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association (as director of its Tire Retreading Institute), MacGregor Tire Co. in Flint, Mich., and Super Mold Corp. in Lodi, Calif.
In 1966, he purchased Retreading Consultant Services Inc. from Louisville Retreaders Conference co-founder George Edwards, assuming the long-term contract Edwards' company had to administer the ARA's financial and other affairs. That included putting on the annual retreading conference and publishing “Retreaders Journal,” a monthly technical magazine.
He soon succeeded Edwards as the ARA's chief administrative official and stayed in that post for 20 years. After stepping down as the ARA's paid administrator in 1986, he formed a consultancy, Tire Technical Services Inc., and served as an expert witness in tire liability cases.
He is a member of the Tire Industry Hall of Fame, having been elected into the International Tire Retreading and Repairing Hall of Fame in 1998.
Throughout his time in Louisville, Edwards also volunteered his services at a soup kitchen run by St. Anthony's Catholic Church.
TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield called Mr. Wagner “fair-minded, witty, enthusiastic, respectful and warm” and said he “had a tremendous positive impact” on the industry and those who knew him.
“Ed Wagner was a proud man,” he said. “He was proud of his wife Martha and of his large and loving family. He was proud of his Catholic traditions, and he was proud of our industry association.”
Mr. Wagner is survived by his wife Martha (Gerry), sons Edward Jr., John, Bob, Joe and Rich, daughters Stephanie (Cassidy), Mary (Smith), Stella (Lew) and Teresa, and nine grandchildren.
Calling hours at Ratterman Funeral Home on Lexington Road in Louisville are on Sept. 11 at 1-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. A funeral mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sept. 12 at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Louisville.
Memorial gifts can be made to the Society of St. Vincent DePaul or Mass of the Air.