Remembering Bob Appleton

Bob Appleton never flaunted his expertise in the ammonia refrigeration industry, but those who worked with him during his five-decade career knew that he was the man to see whenever they had a riddle they could not solve.

“He was an encyclopedia of how to get things done,” said Tom Leighty, his long-time business partner at Refrigeration Systems Company in Columbus, Ohio, and current chairman of the IIAR board of directors. “In my opinion, he was probably the best construction engineer I’ve ever come across. Bob was a very practical engineer. He knew how to make things work. There are a lot of engineers who can draw. Bob was one of those people who knew how to do it. If anybody had any problem whatsoever, they went to Bob.”

Robert Arthur Appleton, 73, died December 18, 2015, at his home in Centerburg, Ohio.

Rich Merrill, former director of advanced engineering at Evapco, Inc., had praise similar to Leighty’s, stemming from his experience while chairman of ASME B31.5. Appleton served as vice-chairman on the project, which developed the code for refrigeration piping and heat transfer elements.

“Bob was always my conscience when I needed information on the contracting and engineering business of refrigeration systems,” Merrill said. “I’d run into some strange rules and wonder why they did it that way. I could call up Bob and he’d have the answer.

“He also had a great deal of insight into regulatory and inspection issues,” Merrill said, adding, “Ohio is a really tough state on ammonia system inspections, so he knew a lot about that. He knew the answer beyond saying, ‘well, it depends.’ ”

Appleton worked at Refrigeration Systems Company from 1962 until his retirement as president in 2015. “Bob never had an enemy, that’s for sure,” said Leighty, who has been company CEO since 1992. “Everybody respected him.”

Appleton’s impact on the industry included his involvement with the writing of the original IIAR piping manual. “If it had anything to do with concrete, steel or refrigeration, he was really the go-to guy,” Leighty said. “He brought all his talents to the creation of the piping manual.”

Appleton was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Franklin University with a degree in engineering. He had many interests outside the industry, including collecting knives and riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He also had a pilot’s license and was an avid fan of Ohio State football. He leaves his wife of 46 years, Karen, daughters Anne Edwards and Robin Lockwood and stepson Michael Marshall.