IIAR Remembers

IIAR Remembers Donal Ballou

Donal Ballou was enthusiastic about everything he did in life, whether as a founding member and chairman of the IIAR, or with the company he created, Refrigeration Systems Corp.

“When he became involved in something he was very passionate about it. That was part of his personality,” said Bob Appleton, who worked alongside Ballou at Refrigeration Systems Corp. for 30 years. “He was energetic and he was very active in all aspects of our industry.”

Ballou, 87, died on July 9 at his New London, N.H. home, where he spent his retirement with his wife of 65 years, Betty. The family also lived in New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas and Ohio before settling in Waynesboro, Pa. They returned to New Hampshire in 1990.

“His business acumen was a real strength,” said Tom Leighty, CEO of Refrigeration Systems Corp. “He certainly had the engineering and sales background, and that helped him guide the company very successfully for many years.”

Leighty worked for Ballou in the early 1970s and was brought back to the company to take over upon his mentor’s retirement in 1992.

“Don made a significant contribution to the industry,” he said. “He was certainly very involved in IIAR and he was instrumental in moving this organization forward.”

Ballou was a devoted family man. He obtained his pilot’s license in mid-life, not solely to aid in the company’s business development, but so he could fly the company plane home to Waynesboro, Pa. on weekends. He also adored the challenge and the thrill. Ever active, he was an avid golfer and workout fanatic, forever living up to his motto of “just keep on doing what you’ve always done.”

After retiring to his New Hampshire cottage, he purchased a scull, a kind of seat rowing boat, and would be on the lake every morning, faithfully recording his time to the second. “He’d be out there rain or shine,” Leighty said. “He was always very fit.”

Leighty recalled regular lunch-time racquetball matchups with Donal, who was as passionate about those meetings as he was about business.

“We’d play three games and for the longest time he would beat me,” he said. “Finally, one day I got him all three games. After that I refused to play him anymore. It drove him crazy. He was so competitive and he wanted the chance for a rematch. That competitiveness was a big part of his personality and what made him successful.”

Born in Lawrence, Mass., Ballou spent his childhood in Croydon, N.H. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire and serving in the US Navy, he joined the York Division of Borg-Warner and Frick Corp. as a mechanical engineer. He founded Refrigeration Systems Corp. in Columbus, Ohio in 1974, eventually expanding the business into several states. IIAR Remembers Donal Ballou Preston Refrigeration is mourning the loss of the company’s chairman, Cliff Preston, 79, who began working at Preston in 1955 at the age of 16.

A long-time IIAR member, Preston was an innovative thinker who was often ahead of the curve when it came to energy savings.

“Cliff would design around energy costs. He was very into that,” said Preston CEO Dave Smreker, who began working for Preston in 1974. “He would put forth economical jobs with energy conscious savings and operations. I think people copied that. We were on the edge all the time of doing something new.”

Smreker, who worked as Preston’s personal project manager, points out that the company went to larger evaporators at a time when others were using two horsepower fan motors and evaporators.

“I always felt he was ahead of the curve,” Smreker said. “He would design systems for 90, 95 degrees condensing back in the 1980s when the typical system design temperature was 96.3 degrees. He would sit down with customers and talk to them about brake horsepower per ton” and how it related to potential energy savings.

Preston president Brian Schnepf said Cliff Preston will be missed, but that his legacy will continue.

“Preston Refrigeration is mourning the loss of a great man, but this company will carry on in memory of him,” he said. Q