I doubt that they knew each other, but in July two of my longtime industry associates passed away.
Heinz Prechter (see story p.22) was 59, John O. Montgomery was 80.
Mr. Prechter gained international recognition as the young German immigrant who started his own sunroof company in the San Francisco area when he was barely out of his teens, then moved to the Detroit area where he built a global empire that started with sunroofs — then still a novelty to most Americans — and expanded to include special trim packages like vinyl roofs (now out of vogue) and convertible systems. Along the way he added banking, real estate, recreational vehicles and publishing to his empire.
Heinz turned out to be the consummate American entrepreneur and a behind-the-scenes political force and fundraiser. Blessed with an ingratiating personality, uncommon vitality and a zest for life, he mixed easily with the industry's and nation's top decision makers, including both presidents whose last names end with Bush.
Only those who knew him well were aware that Heinz struggled with depression for three decades. Unable to shake it, he took his own life.
I'll always remember the other side of his personality: Boundless energy, a bright smile, those tinted, airline pilot's glasses, and his delight in playing ball with the big shots.
John Montgomery started out as a newspaperman, but I knew him mainly as apublic relations executive. Unlike some eager-to-please PR types, John could display a feistiness that made encounters with him memorable, and cause young reporters to cringe.
But he also was top-notch at his craft, which he approached like the reporter he once was. He could get the information you needed, when you needed it. John knew your deadlines.
My fondest visual recollection of John focuses on the old Detroit Press Club Scots Night parties where he always showed up in full regalia, complete with tam, sash and kilt. After sampling the haggis, he'd repair with his fellow Scotsmen to the side bar, there to test the best Scotch in the house. Quite a guy.