By Denise M. Roberts
For many years, the Mears name was synonymous with high-quality products for the water treatment industry. The Lan-O-Sheen Company, which William Mears, Sr. introduced to the soft water industry in 1947, was well known throughout the Midwest, and indeed, the entire country. At its 25-year mark, William ‘Bill’ Mears, Jr. was Executive Vice President and National Director of Sales. He spearheaded the company’s drive into the water conditioning business and amassed a network of more than 950 dealers to offer the Lan-O-Sheen products. Mears kept a close eye on what was happening industry-wide, in the days of burgeoning regulatory requirements, the early ecology movement and the ascendance of consumer knowledge. He made it clear that his company was at the forefront of research and development, and outlined his views in an interview with WC&P (then called Water Conditioning) in1972. “Regardless of how you feel about Ralph Nader, the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies, the impact of government-instigated ‘consumer protection’ on buying attitudes is tremendous,” he said. Furthermore, he was an ardent advocate of selling systems, not just products. And what went together with water softeners better than products specially designed and formulated for soft water? His words should ring loudly for their prophetic insight.
Mears died peacefully November 14, 2011 in Phoenix, AZ, surrounded by his family. He was born June 14, 1932 to Bill and Virginia Mears in St. Paul, MN. Mears is survived and will be missed by his wife, Harriet; sons Roddy (Darcy) and Joe (Angie); daughters Suzanne, Carleen (Greg) Needham and Mara (Mike) Harper; sisters, Marilyn (George) Hobbs and Ginger (Jack) Overbye and grandchildren, Karlene and Will Mears, Julia and Alex Needham and Claire and Andrew Harper.
Mears was more than an industry professional. His pursuits and hobbies were wide ranging, including a love of boats, family stories and ‘the cabin life’ he held dear. Known for his generosity, he was bestowed the title of a gentleman’s gentleman by his peers, greatly appreciated for his sense of humor. Mears was also very community-oriented and a proud member of many associations: Rotary Club of Saint Paul, Goodyear (AZ) Rotary Club, Boys and Girls Club of Minneapolis & St. Paul, the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Phoenix Symphony.
As a close personal friend of WC&P founder Jerome ‘Jerry’ Peterson and his wife Sharon, the ties were maintained throughout the years. Said Sharon upon hearing of his death, “Bill was always a good friend to Jerry and me. I remember Bill calling Jerry on the phone one day and said he loved the magazine, and read it from cover to cover, but felt he should start paying for it. He was serious. Bill was a sweet, gentle man he will be greatly missed.”
Duane ‘Doc’ Nowlin, deeply saddened by the loss of his long-time friend, offered his personal insight of Mears. “Bill and I were both about the same age and grew up in the Twin City area. However, we never knew one another until we met in the mid-sixties at a Water Quality Association convention in Chicago. Bill was a member of the WQA because he and his father manufactured and supplied soap and specialty cleaning products to the water industry.
“Bill was an extrovert. He loved meeting new people and he enjoyed entertaining with friends. Practically everyone who knew Bill would agree that he was a true gentleman. In fact, it was often said that if you look up the word gentleman in the dictionary, it says, ‘see William Mears.’ In addition to being a great host, Bill was a generous contributor to a variety of organizations. Whether it was contributing money to a children’s charity or volunteering his time to serve on an industry committee, people could always count on Bill Mears. I have fond memories of having dinner with Bill at the Water Quality Association conventions. He had a great sense of humor and we both enjoyed exchanging industry stories with other WQA members.”
Memorial donations in Mears’ name may be made to the Rotary Club of Saint Paul Foundation or the Saint Paul Chamber of Orchestra. These organizations may be reached at the following addresses:
Rotary Club of Saint Paul
One Water Street
Suite 272 The Historic Hamm Building
Saint Paul, MN 55107 408 Saint Peter Street
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Phone (651) 222-2028 Saint Paul, MN 55102-1497
Fax (651) 227-3214 [email protected]