Tribute to Joe Hale

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January 4, 2021
By Rick Gardner

Joe HaleWhat would you tell someone starting out in the industry today?
Base your business on integrity and delivering your work product on time. Associate with people you trust and who can give you advice. None of us knows everything about the structure of the enclosure and roofing.

Can you tell me about the beginning of the Institute’s educational programs?
Dick Horowitz, Bob Phillips, and I met in Hagerstown, Maryland, for a weekend. We started on Friday afternoon and finally said farewell late Sunday afternoon. We came up with a curriculum for the first three courses about basic roof consulting. They were very successful, and we rolled them out in both the US and Canada.

Dick Horowitz was such a great wordsmith! He had a great mind. He would use words that the rest of us had never heard before…like “That hasn’t been properly adjudicated yet.”

Around 1990, we had our first symposium there in Raleigh. We had a session on fenestrations and John Cone, who recently passed away, taught that session. A lot of people attended. We had a big ice storm and it paralyzed all of Raleigh; we couldn’t find a place for folks to eat except for there in the hotel.

I know you have a lot of favorite truisms about the building enclosure; would you mind sharing a couple of them with me?
We can’t change physics. We can have committees study it, but the physics will prevail.

All loads go to ground by design or otherwise. If you don’t get your footer right or structure right, [the building] will collapse.

For example, back in the 1980s, Dan River Mills tried to give a building to the city of Danville, [Virginia]. They wanted us to do a structural evaluation of the building. We told them to leave that building alone. The city then hired an engineer, who tested it by filling a kiddy pool on top of the roof, and the whole building collapsed. That was the easiest report that engineer ever had to write.

A lot of years of experience teaches you, “there’s something wrong here.” When something is not right, you say that it’s not right. You have a moral obligation to always say something.

Hales dressed as Raggedy Ann and AndyCan you tell me about your thoughts on the IIBEC Convention and Trade Show?
The convention has grown exponentially from our very first one. It has grown in quality and has become a major source of revenue for the Institute. Everything about the convention has gotten better year after year. A lot of that is because of Sparky (Karen McElroy) and Kris Ammerman. Those employees have helped us grow the Institute. It started with a few people getting everything done.

One of the convention highlights for me personally was when we honored Bill Correll (RCI’s first executive director). The organization paid his expenses and brought him to our convention in Colorado Springs. He was a real mentor and was always talking about what the Institute could be and should be. I took his vision to heart. He had the right idea: we might be a trade association, but we are much more than that. We had to become a hallmark of an institution.

So, what’s the story behind you and Patsy dressed up as Raggedy Ann and Andy at the Convention?
Patsy started making these handmade Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls over 10 years ago for the Foundations auction. They took off. One year, they brought in as much as $800 a pair. We were having the convention in Miami, and she approached me about dressing up like the dolls that year. In a weak moment, I said I’d do it. It went over well. It was the highlight of that convention. I had a lot of fun and it added a spark to the trade show and the auction that year.

What was your favorite project that you worked on as a consultant?
Oh my! There have been several. The most challenging would be the Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Built in 1961, it had the longest wood span that was ever done (for the time). We had to track down where the wood came from. Lamination had been done by a subcontractor in Tacoma, Washington, for Weyerhaeuser. It was a TECTUM deck. The laminated structure had a split and had a chance of falling. We came up with a system that used steel box beams to stabilize the load and keep the wood beams in place without having to remove the roof. We saved the university about $1,500,000.

Another project that I enjoyed was a two-year job at the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia. There we took off an asbestos roof and put in a standing-seam copper roof. It was the only job ever where the owner said not to worry about the cost.

I understand you have stepped down from your position as chair of the RCI-IIBEC Foundation. Can you tell me why?
I feel because of my physical condition, I won’t be able to travel. It is also just the right time. Because of my current condition, I won’t be able to attend meetings or go to Raleigh. I am not able to do all of those things I did before.

Can you tell me more about the Joe Hale Public Library in Fort Chiswell, Virginia?
This is one of the most humbling experiences of my life. If I would have been there at the meeting where they made this decision, I would have argued against it. It was the furthest thing from my mind. It’s very humbling. Obama, Truman, Clinton, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, all the presidents have a library in their hometown…now the Joe Hale Library. That’s a pretty good group.

How did you get involved in the first place?
They had an interest meeting and I thought, “This is a good idea.” I became a director on their board to help them raise money for the library. I want to make sure it is designed with a lot of high-tech accessibility for people to use the internet. So many people in this area don’t have internet access.

This property became available through a local realtor who teaches at the high school. He came to one of our meetings and started speaking to us about this bank that was now available. I knew the building. The property already had a parking lot. We wouldn’t have to mess with the EQ or the DOT if we didn’t change the entrances, and this will save millions of dollars on the project. We let the vault door become an architectural feature by making it permanently unlocked and open. We are planning for the library to be a depository for historic reading documents and research—items you can read but you don’t check out.

Looking back, what has been the most rewarding part of your involvement with RCI (now IIBEC)?
The Foundation is one of the most important and gratifying things to have spent so much of my lifetime working on. I insisted that we raise the first $100,000 from our members before we asked industry. The IIBEC members are an important part of it. Being frugal and sticking to our mission statement has been important to me. We have worked hard to be transparent and stick with our mission statement…to support research, education, and the dissemination of information for issues important to the building enclosure industry.

Now that you are retired, how are you going to spend your free time?
Patsy and I have a wildlife farm with 360+ acres of feeder fields, ponds, and a refuge that does wildlife management. That means we do controlled harvesting. It is where I have spent all my spare time for the last 25 years. It was a mess when I bought it. I started cutting it, cleaning, building a field here and a pond there. I didn’t have a master plan; it just has evolved in my head.

Now I have 15 ponds. I have enjoyed building every one of them, and they are all stocked with fish. I have 55 acres of feeder fields. I plant clover and Austrian winter peas—things that deer and turkeys like to eat. We have mostly deer, turkeys, and black bears. I have been trying to re-establish quail here for the last 25 years.

Tribute to Joe Hale by Elizabeth Grant, PhD, RA

How does one write a tribute to Joe Hale? There are so many stories. Every time I see Joe lately he likes to talk about the time I helped frame his house. He stuck me up in the attic with a nail gun because I was the smallest one there, and this still tickles him! And later on, he let me do some stonework on his fireplace even though I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what I was doing. He showed some real trust there that I appreciate to this day.

I remember another time when I was working at HDH Associates, P.C., and had gotten a set of slightly astringent comments on a project from a reviewer. I went to Joe’s office to report this news and he said something like, “Elizabeth, getting a negative comment from this person is about as worrisome as a large zit.” He always knows how to put things in perspective, and I now keep this phrase in my back pocket to pull out in similar situations with my students.

Talking to Joe is an adventure. I settle in and take at least four pages of notes with every phone call. They always end the same way, with an, “Alright, bud, be good.” I do try to be good, but my efforts at philanthropy will never match Joe’s energy and dedication.

Joe has been a great champion of my research work at Virginia Tech and takes pride in everything I accomplish in the roofing world, as well he should. My connections with IIBEC were formed through my association with him, and my work has been sustained for nearly 20 years because of his ongoing support. He has also been a great proponent of bringing students to the conventions to introduce them to the profession, and making the assembled wisdom of IIBEC members more widely available. I remember how hard he pushed Project Mercury, which was an effort to scan and upload RCI convention and Interface articles and make them free to members.

I’ve long thought there should be a project to “download Joe,” to digitize his own vast and desultory library and his collection of building enclosure stories to make them available to the next generation of roof consultants. I hope this issue of Interface is a way to start that process and make sure everyone at IIBEC gets to know Joe Hale for themselves.

Tribute to Joe Hale by Marc Allaire

Bonjour, y’all!

Mr. Hale, it has been a long time and you have done a lot for the organization to move it forward. I remember when Albert Duwyn coerced you to come up to the Bristol Hotel in Toronto in the early 1990s to present a forum for RCI to set up a new region here. Some 30 years later, we have a couple of regions and several chapters, and we have been able to accomplish a lot. This is all under your leadership and tutelage. We really appreciate that and appreciate being part of RCI, now IIBEC.

Joe, I personally thank you for all you did for us, guiding us and supporting the Foundation and where it is and where it sits today. It is absolutely commendable. I speak on behalf of all the RCI Foundation Canada Board members that we are appreciative of what you have done and accomplished. We will carry that torch forward. God bless you and Patsy!

A Fond Memory of Making Joe Hale’s Acquaintance by Walt Rossiter

Sometime in the late 1980s, I had the opportunity to spend some quiet time with Joe Hale for the first time. Although I do not recall the exact date, I recall the circumstance clearly. I had been in contact with the then RCI leadership to seek assistance in observing roofs that were of specific interest to an ongoing NIST research project. As might be expected of Joe, he was one of the first members to respond with an offer of assistance. He had project business at the University of Virginia, which provided opportunity for us to meet there. He could arrange looking at the roofs of a number of campus buildings, because, also typical of Joe, he had many contacts there.

We met for dinner the night before we were to observe the roofs. That allowed for quiet time to sit and chat to become acquainted. It was an easy conversation of subjects long forgotten, but long remembered for its beginning of what is not only a great professional relationship, but also a 30-years-plus close personal friendship.

The quiet time was not limited to the dinner. Although the season was only late fall, overnight it snowed in Charlottesville, VA. The amount of snow was just sufficient to preclude walking on the roofs at an early hour. So, we had, as the expression goes, time to kill, and our get-acquainted conversations continued while we awaited the late fall snow to melt sufficiently for us to be on the roofs. Again, typical of Joe, he was not lost for words to keep the conversation flowing. We killed the time effortlessly.

Joe, I salute and thank you for all that you have done for IIBEC and the RCI-IIBEC Foundation. In the latter case, IIBEC may not have had a Foundation without your leadership. Although you have stepped back from the chair’s position, I know that you will never step totally away from the Foundation’s activities. So, I look forward to your continued advice and admonishing to keep the Foundation moving successfully forward.

Tribute to Joe Hale by Bob Card, F-IIBEC, RBEC, RRC, RWC, REWC, REWO

When I first started developing a somewhat higher profile in RCI, Joe would seek me out at conventions and other events to bend my ear about some issue he thought I should better understand. After a few of these encounters, his son-in-law, David Liebal, would often remark when he saw me, “Joe Hale is looking for you,” as a humorous sort of threat. However, after a couple of years of interactions with him, I began looking forward to encountering Joe in the halls of a convention or meeting hotel, and I now consider him a good friend and positive influence.


Tribute to Joe by Edward A. (Ted) Sheridan, RBEC, RRC, REWC, RWC, PEng

One of my first and most vivid memories of Joe was at the RCI Convention in Colorado Springs, which would make it 1991. It was my first convention in a foreign land (the United States), and I was suddenly in a big room with a hundred or so people who presumably did roof consulting, just like me. That was about 98 more roof consultants together at one time than I had ever seen. Yet I knew no one in the room. I looked at name tags, saw all the exotic locations people had travelled from—Kentucky, Iowa, California even—just to be there. I listened to the rising chatter. Apparently, some of them knew each other, as there was a modicum of back-slapping, along with quite a bit of quiet, intense discussion. The chatter I overheard was all English, but with a rainbow of accents from apparently every corner of the land.

I stood there trying to take it all in, wondering what to do, where to start. A shortish, stout fellow in suspenders ambled over towards me out of the crowd, apparently with a big wad of chewing gum in his mouth, and said, “How y’all doin’?”

Only later did I discover that this friendly, unassuming, yet memorable character was none other than Joe Hale, already an RCI fixture in those early days, soon to be RCI president, who had taken time from a friendly discussion to step away and welcome a stranger, a newbie. And the wad was a chaw of tobacco. Over the ensuing years, I realized that Joe was the embodiment of everything that makes this organization so special. He made a habit of reaching out to engage and reinforce the common bond we all had, by virtue of our chosen profession. Every year that I came back to the convention, I was a bit more comfortable and knew more people in the ever-increasing RCI Convention crowd, and every year Joe managed to find me  and ask me how I was doing. I felt like I belonged.

In time, I realized that I might have something to give back to the group, even if it wasn’t Joe’s southern charm. I volunteered a bit, joined some committees, and got involved in my chapter and region. But regardless of what I did or didn’t do, every year, Joe was there and would make a special point of having a quick discussion with me. In 1999, I was at a crossroads in my career. I had a young family but was thinking I might be forced to leave my partners and start my own firm. My first day at the convention, Joe sought me out, and I soon confided my uncertainty to him. He didn’t provide career advice. He just looked me in the eye and said, “Any resources you need, just call me.” I knew he meant what he said. It was such an unexpected and unselfish gesture that it immediately gave me confidence to do what I felt was right.

In the following 20 years, my path took some ups and downs, but every year, Joe was my touchstone at convention time, and every year, I came back from the convention energized by new friends and new knowledge.

The pandemic in 2020 has restricted all of our daily lives in so many ways, but my biggest regret, bar none, was not being together at the convention. Oh, how I missed seeing Joe sidle up to the microphone at the end of the Meeting of the Members, while we all waited awkwardly and reverently for his words.

But it also made me understand that Joe’s impact is beyond words. Joe has taught me the beauty of a giving spirit, something I will aspire to as long as I live.


Tribute to Joe Hale by Mike Blanchette, RRO, RRC, F-IIBEC

I really can’t remember when I first met Joe, but I was always amazed that the man could chew tobacco and not spit. I’m the first to let you know that I enjoy a fine American tobacco product, but good old Camels are about my limit.

Anyways, I always admired Joe at each convention. He was always conversing with the legends: Dick Canon, Art Sark, Bob Lyons, Don Bush Sr., Richard Horowitz, and Ben Hales, just to name a few. Suffice it to say, when Joe had something to say, it was gonna be said. Pretty sure that still holds true today.

When I got elected to the Board of Directors of RCI, I was immediately on a first-name basis with Mr. Hale. He never hesitated to take me aside and explain how important it was that I lead in a direction that promoted only true professionalism within the industry. He taught me how important it was to get the gospel out to the “unwashed,” as he put it. And oh, by the way, my personal desires were to be put way down the line—RCI’s mission and goals were to be number one.

As the years went by, Joe took me aside and we dreamed up the Foundation. We watched other roof-related organizations have foundations, but it seemed they did not want to hurry up and spend the funds for the good of the industry. Joe and I truly believed, and still to this day believe: get the dollars from our donors and get the money out the door as per our mission; support research and education and then disseminate information.

Setting up the Foundation Board of Directors was interesting, to say the least. Joe and I wanted a well-rounded and balanced board that understood our need for complete transparency. We felt we needed professional consultants, members of academia, and well-respected industry managers. We wanted to be able to reply to donors and others in the industry with a clear conscience. One of my first board member selections was my uncle, Johnnie Walters. Uncle Johnnie served under President Nixon’s administration—both as an assistant attorney general and as the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He had some great stories about Nixon and his less-than-desirable cronies. Johnnie and Joe got along in great fashion, and Walters, of course, helped steer our way through the maze of IRS regulations so as to become a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

As the Foundation flourished, we were able to put other great board members in place. When Canadians such as Albert Duwyn and Ralph Paroli accepted their nominations to be on the board, it really made us an international deal. Joe and I were amazed when the Canadians first started trying to become a charitable foundation due to the extreme differences between Revenue Canada and the IRS.

In closing, I can’t thank Joe Hale enough for all the tutoring, lessons, and in general, priceless knowledge he has passed along to me. Sorry about the Wildflower Project, Joe, but you let me have my “head of steam” and run with it. (Inside joke, I’ll explain in person if you collar me one day.)