GEORGETOWN, Texas—Long-time rubber industry veteran Michael L. Burkholder died May 28 at the age of 67 from complications following chemotherapy treatments.
The sales and commercial manager for Blair Rubber Co. was considered an expert on the choice and installation of rubber linings, especially on rail cars.
He made himself available to share his knowledge with those having problems in that area or with belts and hose, according to company and industry officials.
Burkholder began working at B.F. Goodrich in 1967, and after a stint in the U.S. Navy, he spent his entire career spanning the next four and a half decades in the conveyor belt, hose and rubber liner industries.
He served in the Navy from 1968-70 on a carrier during the Vietnam War before getting his discharge and returning to Goodrich, where he initially scheduled hose production. After two years as a scheduler and working in production, he moved into customer service, and from there went on the road to sell rubber goods for the company in 1976.
That's when he became heavily involved in the belt and lining businesses. He remained with Goodrich until 1984 when the firm began eliminating its industrial products units.
He could read the handwriting on the wall, he said in a 2007 interview, and after 18 years with the company, he left and began working at Dana Corp.'s Boston Weatherhead division, remaining with the company for eight years before joining Blair Rubber in 1994.
“Mike was instrumental in leading us into the rail car lining business in the 1990s,” said Dave Jentzsch, president of Seville, Ohio-based Blair Rubber. “He helped grow that into the biggest part of our business. He also played a big part in the growth of our belt splicing operation.”
Burkholder was active in NIBA—the Belting Association, and he served on a number of committees within the organization.
As sales and commercial manager, Burkholder spent a good deal of time on the road, Jentzsch said, but he continued to live in the Akron area until several years ago when he and his wife, Claudia, moved to Georgetown. No matter where he was, Jentzsch said, “he was on the job early and worked late.
“He was always forthright in his business dealings. He always cared about the customer. He was a teacher, helping people to find a better way to do things.”
He said Burkholder enjoyed life and people. “It was like life was a party, and he was the host. Wherever he was, it was always fun. He always wanted people to have a good time.”
Burkholder loved dogs, golf and was an avid Cleveland Browns and Ohio State Buckeyes fan.
Besides his wife, Burkholder is survived by daughters Melissa Joan and husband Joe of Mount Gilead, Ohio; MaryJo Beck and husband John of Douglasville, Ga.; Megan Burkholder of Georgetown; stepdaughter Sharon Henry of Austin, Texas; stepson Brian Henry of New Braunfels, Texas; brother Jeff and his wife Amy of Akron; and eight grandchildren.
His ashes will be interred on June 18 at 2:30 p.m. at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, Ohio. On June 19, a memorial will be held for him beginning at 2 p.m. at the former Marvin Kent Homestead in Kent, Ohio, 420 W. Main St.