February 15, 2010

The Death of a Friend

By Paul Bieber

Irwin Hill, a dear friend for over thirty-five years, has passed on. He struggled mightily for the last couple of years with on-going health problems, never complaining, always with a joke and a kind word for a friend or a helping nurse.

Irwin was a salesman’s salesman. His personality was so strong and so positive that he never missed talking with a customer. No one turned Irwin away saying he was too busy. And, while Irwin filled you in on the stories of his children and wife, his pen was busy writing down everything you needed in your shop. You didn’t even realize you gave him an order, until, of course, he asked if it was OK with you to place this small order. You couldn’t refuse Irwin. Ever.

Short, bald, wide, funny and caring. These were all Irwin. You never left Irwin’s presence without a smile on your face. You appreciated the extra time he took to make sure you never ran out of anything, and were glad to give him the business.

Irwin could have sold snow to Eskimos. He started in the glass industry with CR Laurence, where he and I worked together. I learned from Irwin, more so than from any other salesman I ever worked with. When I had the opportunity to join Floral Glass on Long Island, Irwin came along, too. He sold glass better than anyone. He lit up the office with his smile, and nobody in the plant was ever too busy to answer his questions about when a customer would get his product. Irwin felt that the customers were HIS customers, and he cared for them like they were his children. No request was ever too trivial, no sample order ever refused, no orders ever left on a customer’s desk.

Irwin taught me this: “Keep all of your customers in a buying situation.” He worked hard to never let the credit department shut off his customer…he kept the money flowing so his customers could always buy from us.

But writing about the glass business doesn’t tell all about Irwin. He has two great kids, Suzanne and Michael, and his wife, Sally. Irwin loved being Jewish. He was the President of his Synagogue for so long that no one remembers when he wasn’t. He led services when the Rabbi was out, and cared for all his congregants in their times of need. He was proud of his faith and the traditions. Irwin loved his Synagogue and his ability to help people with the Synagogue’s resources.

Irwin was a classic ‘New Yorker’. Born and raised in New York City, moving to Long Island when Sally and he started their family, Irwin loved his bagels and lox, and most especially the hectic pace and style of New York. For the 99% of you who live away from here, you never had the chance to shake Irwin’s hand. If you did, you would never forget Irwin. As we progress to electronic communications, Irwin’s professional selling style of friendship and knowledge has lost it’s lustre. Irwin was the best of the best–as a salesperson, and more importantly, as a man.