CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio—When Yogesh Parikh attended the International Silicone Conference in April, he did so with a heavy heart.
Everyone was asking him where his wife, Rosanne Heitner-Parikh, was. She traveled with him on nearly all of his business trips, but was not present at the Cuyahoga Falls event. They had started Dispersion Technology Inc.—a producer of dispersions, pigments and additives—in Lakewood, N.J., in 1992. He served as president and his wife as vice president.
But Rosanne, his wife of 45 years, had died in mid-January at age 75, following a third fight with cancer. She had her first bout with lymphoma in 1982, and survived after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. A second lymphoma followed in 1985 and again she persevered after another round of chemo.
Last August, however, doctors found cancer in her left kidney, Parikh said. "She was a fighter," he said. "This was the third time, and it really came with a vengeance. We had a wonderful marriage. Because of the business we traveled the world."
Theirs really was an unlikely love story, he said. He came to the U.S. from India to get his master's degree. He got a job and met Rosanne. He had never been married, while she was divorced, with two sons and a daughter.
"She was born in a Jewish family in New York," Parikh said. "It was the mid-1970s and culture at that time was a lot more strict than today's society."
In many ways they were a traditional couple, with Rosanne the housewife and "the woman behind the successful man," he said.
But when they started the business from scratch, the dynamics of the marriage changed a bit. Most of what DTI and its 15 employees make is sold into the silicone rubber industry.
While she didn't work in the business on an everyday basis, Parikh said his wife traveled with him to most of his sales calls and conferences, helping with sales and marketing. She was a straight shooter and wasn't afraid to say what was on her mind, even when calling on industry giants like General Electric, Delphi and Toyota.
"We are small," Parikh said of DTI. "By trade I'm a chemist and she was a housewife. But there was something about her confidence and my technical knowledge, that people would pay attention. With whatever she did, she had a gusto. She lived with full force and happiness, regardless of the amount of materialistic things."
Heitner-Parikh knew almost everyone in the silicone industry, he said, because of their travels together.
He also said it was common for strangers to come up to them and compliment them. He recalled a psychologist who approached them in New York City while they were waiting for a table in a restaurant and said that he had been observing them for less than 10 minutes. "He said, 'I've been a psychologist for 40 years. Watching you for seven minutes, and the aura you have for each other, I have never seen it.' "
Besides her husband and three children, Heitner-Parikh is survived by six grandchildren.
Parikh said one of the sons—Jeff Heitner—is production manager for DTI. A grandson is in his last year of engineering school at Drexel University, but Parikh wants him to get experience elsewhere for four to five years before deciding if he too wants to join the family business.
For strength, Parikh carries and looks at a note hand-written by his wife a number of years back after she saw the message somewhere. It was a motto, he said, for how she lived her life. It reads simply: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."