ORANGE, Calif.—Warco Biltrite Chairman Steven Ray Hemstreet, who spent more than 48 years with the company, has died. He was 71.
The cause of death was not disclosed.
"Mr. Hemstreet's passion for our company and for its people was unceasing," Warco said in a statement, noting that his passion for the company grew throughout his career.
"Mr. Hemstreet," the company said, "was the guiding force of Warco Biltrite, inspiring all that met and worked with him with his calm, genuine empathy."
Hemstreet began his career at Warco in 1971, taking the job as a machine operator at the urging of his mother, who spent 25 years with the company in its extrusion department. Initially, he intended to join the company part time, but he became a full-time employee in May 1971.
From 1971-77, Hemstreet performed 18 different functions within the factory and laboratory, according to Warco. He was promoted to vice president in 1977 and was named president in 1983. He acquired an option to purchase the company in 1986 and, in 1992, exercised it along with his two partners—H. Conrad Blackerby and Benjamin Harrison.
They sold a majority interest in Warco to a private investment firm that operated the company from June 1998 until November 2001, when Hemstreet and his brother re-acquired the firm.
Warco said it progressively expanded under Hemstreet's leadership, such as with the acquisition of Biltrite Ripley's rubber sheeting and matting business in 2006 from Stanley Bernstein and Steve Fine.