James Robert Findlay, Sr. [1926-2013]; Firm’s co-founder lauded for integrity


James Robert Findlay, Sr., co-founder and former president of Impact Products Inc. and a local philanthropist, died of prostate cancer Sunday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio. He was 87.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) remembered him Monday as “a remarkable human being,” for his integrity and ethics as a businessman, as well as his unwavering dedication to Toledo and its people.

He invested countless hours serving on the boards of several groups and was a mentor as a softball, basketball, and volleyball coach.

“I would put him in the company of a select few who were so committed and caring,” Miss Kaptur said. “He’s a real local hero.”

The lawmaker said she was inspired by Mr. Findlay despite differences in party politics. Mr. Findlay was a Republican.

He co-founded Impact Products, a Toledo manufacturer and supplier of janitorial and sanitation products, in 1963. He wanted employees to be a part of the company’s success so much that he created an employee stock-ownership plan in 1987. It allowed them to have full control of the company by 1998. He also established a first-of-its kind retirement plan for manufacturers’ representatives.

Jeff Beery, whom Mr. Findlay hired as Impact Products’ controller in 1987, said his former boss made it possible for workers to profit from the sale of the company to another firm in 2001.

“He was truly a gentleman. A handshake and your word meant everything,” Mr. Beery, now company vice president of finance, said. “The culture he created in that company is still there. It’s really amazing, if you think about it. Fifteen years later and everyone still thinks of him.”

Born Oct. 2, 1926, in Toledo, Mr. Findlay instilled the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit he learned as a Depression-era child in others.

He graduated from Scott High School in 1944 and enlisted during World War II as an Air Corps cadet while at Clemson University. He was a member of Glenwood Lutheran Church, where he was a Boy Scout leader and Cub Scout master during early adulthood.

His daughter, Sarah Hohman, said he could be strict and disciplined as a father while wielding humor and thoughtfulness. “He taught us so much about people and caring and how to have fun at the same time,” she said.

As a philanthropist, he donated $3 million as co-chairman for Flower Hospital’s Eberly Cancer Center and $1.3 million for the Goerlich Alzheimer Center. He was active in many fund-raisers for the Boy Scouts, Sylvania athletics, the YMCA, and numerous other organizations, as well at the University of Toledo, which bestowed an honorary doctorate upon him in 2002. The Findlay Athletic Sports Complex on UT’s Scott Park campus was named after him and his late wife, Celia.

He also was heavily involved with Lourdes University, where was on an advisory board that reported to the administration.

Daughter-in-law Linda Findlay said he was excited that his twin grandchildren, Jon Findlay, Jr., and Allison Findlay, chose to attend UT. The former was part of Mr. Findlay’s fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi. The latter was in Delta Delta Delta, the sorority to which Celia Findlay belonged.

Jon Findlay, Jr., who graduated from UT last spring with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management, said his grandfather enjoyed joining him at Phi Kappa Psi luncheons. “In times when it’s hard to find a good role model, he was there for me,” Jon Findlay, Jr., said.

In congressional testimony delivered to the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 26 and broadcast via C-SPAN, Miss Kaptur described Mr. Findlay as “a remarkable American who has proudly served our nation as an Air Force veteran and our Toledo community as a successful entrepreneur, extraordinary philanthropist, and a true friend to so many.”

Miss Kaptur said she knew Mr. Findlay had been ill, and her staff suggested she deliver the congressional testimony while he was alive, rather than save it for a eulogy, so he could enjoy it on TV.

Mr. Findlay had a Sylvania residence as well as a farm near Hillsdale, Mich. He and his wife hosted Boy Scouts who wanted to earn merit badges at the farm. Mr. Findlay also was involved in harness racing for more than 30 years.

After Impact Products was sold, he formed a company with his children, Findlay Business Partners Ltd.

Mr. Findlay and his wife, Celia, were high school sweethearts married for 55 years. She battled ovarian cancer for a decade, plus other health problems such as vision loss. She preceded him in death.

Survivors include sons, Jim Findlay, Jr. and Jon Findlay, Sr.; daughter, Sarah Hohman; sister, Mary Root, and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Walker Funeral Home. Services will be at 3 p.m. Sunday in Glenwood Lutheran Church.

The family requests donations to Lutheran Homes Services, the Findlay Youth Fund, or Celia Findlay University of Toledo Education Scholarship Fund.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.