NEWTOWN, Pa.—Charles Stokes III, former owner of Home Rubber Co., died Jan. 19 in Newtown. He was 85.
Home Rubber was founded in Trenton, N.J., by his great-grandfather in 1881. Stokes III worked at the firm for about 40 years, eventually serving as president and owner until selling the rubber product manufacturer in 1996 to a group that included Rich Balka, the company's current president and sole owner.
“Charlie was a consummate gentleman, almost of a lost era,” Balka said. “He was always very proper. He wore plaid pants in the office up until his last day, which were fairly amusing.”
Stokes III had a lot of good friends in the industry, particularly in the New England area, Balka said. “That was the area he chose to hold onto in terms of outside sales,” he said. “He had spent some time in Rochester, N.Y., and made friends up there. He continued to have that be his "milk run.' He had a number of very good relationships with people we still hear from—from Buffalo to Trenton and everywhere in between.”
Balka remembers when he and his partners purchased Home, it was a very unusual transaction. When the Home Rubber sales manager and one of his salesmen found out the business was on the market, they quit because they assumed they would be cut because they were at the top of the salary range.
“As we were negotiating to buy the business, (Stokes) said to me: "I've lost these sales guys. I don't have the energy to train somebody new. So if you want this business to be here by the time you're ready to close the deal, you're going to have to help me.' “
So Balka came in and Stokes started teaching him sales. “We started doing that in March when I was negotiating,” Balka said. “It was great because I knew everyone who worked here. I knew all of our key customers and knew how to operate the business by the time we ended up closing on the sale.”
Stokes is survived by his wife of 61 years, Barbara; three daughters and sons-in law; and seven grandchildren.
Contributions may be made in his memory to the American Red Cross or to the Cadwalader Park tennis program of National Junior Tennis of Trenton; 949 W. State St.; Trenton, N.J. 08618.