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Go to Interview with Sylvia Foster

From the January 2003 edition of Wikoff Color Corporation:

The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.

William James

Dear Wikoff Reader:

Fred C. Wikoff, Jr., our company's founder, died on January 28th at the age of 81. Ordinarily, I'd say that Mr. Wikoff "passed away" because it sounds like a more gentle way to announce someone's demise. However, our president, Phil Lambert, once told me that Mr. Wikoff profoundly disliked the term, "passed away." After hearing someone's death described this way, Mr. Wikoff stated, "Hell, he didn't pass away, he died."

As you can see, Mr. Wikoff was quite outspoken. Some found him complex - others found him idealistically simple. He was a man of extremes -- ranting over an injustice one moment and quietly reading a good book the next.

He was frugal when it came to his personal needs. In fact, many times he'd ask well-liked and trusted employees (like Bobby Featherstone and David Adams) if they'd change the oil in his car -- stating that he felt car dealerships were "too expensive and a d_ _n rip-off." Conversely, in the early 80's, Mr. Wikoff provided seed money totaling over $450,000 to establish a child abuse prevention and treatment center (in Charlotte). He felt that no one was adequately helping these families. Today, this agency -- The Family Center -- features a myriad of comprehensive assistance programs and it is highly regarded nationwide.

Just a few years ago, Fred Wikoff also donated 600+ acres of wooded property (in Lancaster, SC) to the Family Center to be transformed into a camp for underprivileged children. He treasured this property and had owned it for many years. He moved a small mobile home onto the property and up until his death, he visited "Camp Treetops" every weekend and watched the renovation and his dream for these kids come true.

Mr. Wikoff could be impatient to a fault - but (I think) this was because he felt an urgency to get things done -- that life was indeed short. I understand that cursing was something Mr. Wikoff picked up as a young man while in the Army Air Corps -- and a trait I don't think he ever thought of altering.

Most overlooked this habit - as it was simply a part of his persona - and how he got his point across. Phil Lambert eulogized Mr. Wikoff at his memorial service -- telling attendees that when "quoting Mr. Wikoff," he would substitute words that were "more suitable for a church audience."

The eulogy brought smiles to everyone because we "knew" that these substituted words were not the words Mr. Wikoff would have used in the described situation. Excerpts from Phil's eulogy are printed within -- as are excerpts from eulogies given by Steve Wikoff (son) and Chris Teat (step-daughter).

Reading this newsletter was something Mr. Wikoff truly enjoyed. He read it from "cover to cover" every quarter - ALWAYS coming to me and making a comment about it when he had finished. It's hard to believe but this is the 70th newsletter I've published since joining Wikoff Color in 1985. Predictably, for 69 quarters, Mr. Wikoff left his office, walked over to my desk and would say, "Good paper" or "That was a good paper BUT you ought to put your name on the first page instead of just at the end," or make another minor suggestion (to make the newsletter better from a reader's perspective).

This newsletter is where Mr. Wikoff learned a lot about you and about your plant. This quarter, I am dedicating this newsletter to Mr. Wikoff's memory and I hope from within "you, in turn, will learn more about him."

Regarding this memorial newsletter, many employees have shared stories about encounters with Mr. Wikoff that impacted their lives. Some just wanted to relay a funny story or two.

However, no matter what your encounter with Fred Wikoff, you always knew where he stood on a subject. He was incapable of hiding his emotions and he never tried. If he didn't understand you or didn't like something you'd done, he told you so. Then, most likely, he'd encourage you and simply say, "Go get'um."

This is what is called honesty and it's how Fred Wikoff built this company from the ground up in 1956. It was his labor or love. His love for Wikoff Color and its employees and is why we're employee owned - it's why there are college scholarships available for children of Wikoff employees - it's why WCC is customer and service oriented -- and why Mr. Wikoff will be greatly missed.

To close, I truly thank each and every Wikoff employee who assisted me in making this memorial newsletter what I hope Mr. Wikoff would have thought was not only a "good paper" - but, perhaps our "best paper ever!"

Sylvia Foster, Editor

Wikoff Color Corp. (founded 1956)

March 2003


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