Remembering Rudy Nechay

Ammonia refrigeration lost one of its most entrepreneurial and dedicated leaders last month with the passing of Rudy Nechay, a man friends and family described as passionate about his work and devoted to the advancement of his industry.

Rudy was a longtime member of IIAR, serving on the board of directors and acting as treasurer for the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation. In 2010, he was named IIAR’s Member of the Year. “The ammonia refrigeration industry has lost one of its greatest supporters,” said IIAR President Dave Rule. “His passion for his work and tireless dedication to this industry will not be forgotten and he will be missed by many as a colleague and friend.” Rudy, who founded two companies after co-founding his first company, Industrial Refrigeration Service Inc., was always committed to the ideal of doing the best possible job, said Mark Broomer, Vice President of Industrial Refrigeration Service. “Hard working describes him more than anything else, he just would not quit until a job was done,” he said. “Rudy brought his personality to his business. He built a well-respected company on the need to do the job right.”

A former marine, Rudy seemed to never lose that commitment to excellence, said close friend and colleague Dennis Carroll. “He never forgot that he was a marine, and whatever that was that was instilled in Rudy, it never left him.”

“Rudy always emphasized quality,” said Broomer. “He always said he didn’t want to be the biggest refrigeration company, he wanted to be the best.” And as a young entrepreneur building a business, he was not afraid to make decisions based on that ethic, said Broomer, who remembers Rudy tearing up invoices when a customer was not happy. “He wanted to make sure the job satisfied the customer, or he wasn’t satisfied with it,” said Broomer.

“He was larger than life,” said daughter Natasha Arnold, adding that many friends, family members and even acquaintances remember Rudy as a man who was committed to the others around him. “He played a very significant role in many lives.”

When it came to business, he was a man ruled by honesty and a deep appreciation for a job well done, said Carroll. But beyond that, “he was just a wonderful person to be around, I always wanted to hear what he had to say,” he said, adding that Rudy was outspoken with a keen interest in the well-being of the industry.

As a father and mentor, he was instrumental in shaping the work ethic of all his children, said son Frank Nechay. “He was a wonderful father and mentor to all of us.”

“As his children, we always knew he had a big impact on this industry,” said son Nick Nechay. “But I didn’t realize just how huge that was until he passed away. Everyone was at his service. Friends, competitors and customers, some of whom traveled long distances to be there, and they all had personal stories about him. That’s a testament to who he was.”

A member of several organizations, Rudy served on the IIAR and ARF board of directors, and was one of the original charter members of the Baltimore chapter of the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association.

After serving a thirteen-month tour of duty as a marine in Vietnam, Rudy started his career in industrial refrigeration at Chesapeake Refrigeration Service. In 1978, he went on to establish Industrial Refrigeration Service, and followed that venture with three other companies: General Refrigeration Company in Delmar, Delaware, Polytemp Corporation in Baltimore, Maryland, and Independent Refrigeration Services in York, Pennsylvania.

The companies became a family business, and are now run by his two sons and daughter as well as his wife Eva. “Our whole family works in this industry,” said Nick Nechay, adding that the reason Rudy built a business that became a family venture was because “he poured his whole heart and soul into the industry and into his family.” In many ways, said Carroll, Rudy was also humble “like someone who couldn’t believe his good fortune.”

“He was always thankful for his business and his family.” And that optimism and openness is perhaps the biggest thing to miss about Rudy, said Carroll. “You never knew how a conversation with him was going to end, but you knew it was going to end well and you’d laugh somewhere in the process.”