Volume 35, Number 10, October 2000

Flying High

Walter Williams Soars into the 2000 Glass and Metal Hall of Fame™ sponsored by USGlass magazine


By Ellen Giard

wpe12.jpg (11793 bytes)Since 1965 Walter has owned and managed Cardinal Glass in Rockford, Ill.

Many in the industry probably can’t imagine their jobs without the marvel of Pilkington’s float glass process, which was invented in 1959. But 90-year old Walter Williams, an inductee into the 2000 Glass and Metal Hall of Fame, remembers when there was nothing more than sheet glass. With 70 years of devotion to the glass industry, Williams was inducted into the Glass and Metal Hall of Fame, sponosred by USGlass magazine at Glass Expo Midwest™ 2000 in Chicago. The Hall of Fame is designed to recognize and honor industry members who have given their time and talents for the betterment of the industry as a whole.

Born in Cleveland in 1910, Williams mother died when he was just two years old. His father, however, remarried a few years later. “It was my stepmother who really raised me,” Williams said. “After my father was remarried, they had ten children together, so I grew up in a family of 14 kids.” And though he had no idea he’d grow up to work in the glass industry, he did know as a child that he wanted to go into business for himself.

wpe14.jpg (6720 bytes)Walter (R) now lives with his daughter Dawn (L) and grandson Shawn.

Williams moved to Chicago in 1920 and graduated from Chicago Business College in 1930. He took his first job in the glass industry when he went to work for Simpson-Clarke Glass Co. as a stenographer. “At that time, the Depression was in full bloom and I knew that his company was going to go out of business,” Williams said. “Someone told me about another company, Tyler & Hippach Glass Co., that would hire me, and I took a job there as secretary to the treasurer.” Later, he was appointed credit manager for Cadillac Glass in Chicago. In 1940, Cadillac purchased a small operation in Rockford, Ill., and sent Williams there to manage the outfit. “In 1965 I bought the company out and changed the name to Cardinal Glass Co. Now we have several other units in surrounding areas,” he said. “The company services Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.” Today, Cardinal Glass operates as a large distributor, as well as a manufacturer of insulating glass that also provides auto glass installation. “We have grown from two to 162 employees and we are dominant in our area,” Williams said. “I have enjoyed being here for many years and have no desire to retire. I couldn’t have it; I’d go crazy.”

wpe15.jpg (16383 bytes)Angelo Bruscato (L) has worked with Walter for more than 30 years.

Bill Birch, executive directors of the Glass Association of North America (GANA) has known Williams for more than 40 years. Williams is a member of GANA and an original member of the Flat Glass Jobbers Association, which is no longer in existence. “He’s one of the few original members that’s still around,” Birch said. “He’s a very honest and concerned businessman who firmly believes there is a right way and no other way to the do job.” Birch explained that Williams is an individual who has spent much of his time fighting the inadequacies of his business. “I’ve never seen anyone as tenacious as he is. He doesn’t play games and he’s very forthright.” he said.

However, Williams has not let the glass business consume all of his time. “When I was 16, I started researching my family tree,” he said. “And it has become something I have now done for hundreds of people” he added. He also admits that he spends his fair share of time on the computer, a major tool for his genealogy projects.

But tracing family trees isn’t Williams’ only talent. He began using his pilot’s license extensively after Eleanore, his wife of 52 years, passed away in 1985. “I’ve got more than 5,000 hours upstairs,” he said. “But I had to sell my plane a few years ago. I got too old to fly.” When he was flying, however, Williams made numerous trips around the globe including excursions to Haiti, Mexico, Cuba, Central and South America, Canada and most of the United States. Having flown almost all over the world, he admits there isn’t much else left he desires to do. “I’ve been around a lot,” Williams remarked.

He now lives with his daughter Dawn, whom he says is his best friend, and grandson Shawn. His son, Wayne, passed away in 1973. He also has another son, Lamont

wpe16.jpg (8580 bytes)                 wpe17.jpg (8150 bytes)         wpe19.jpg (9866 bytes)        wpe1A.jpg (9983 bytes)
Walter and his first car,
which he bought in 1927.              
  Walter and his wife Eleanore.     Walter (R), Eleanore and late son Wayne.    Walter, late wife Eleanore and son, Lamont.

In 1997, Williams was honored with an award from GANA for more than 60 years in the industry, and up until a few years ago, remained active in many of the association’s activities and meetings. He has been a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, has served on the board for the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, and also was a secretary and board member of the Rockford Kiwannis Club. Nowadays he has lunch most everyday at the University Club in Rockford where he has been a member for 50 years.

With no plans for retirement, Williams serves as Cardinal Glass’ chairman and is still at work everyday by 6:30 a.m. He admits, however, that he no longer handles any of the company’s daily tasks. The company president, Angelo Bruscato, leads the day-to-day operations. Bruscato has worked with Williams for more than 30 years. “Even though Walter is no longer involved in the daily duties, Cardinal Glass is a place that really keeps him alive,” Bruscato said. “It is like his Taj Mahal.” Bruscato said that most people who know Williams best tend to forget he is 90 years old. “No one has been around [in the glass industry] as long as Walter,” he said. “He’s really one of the pioneers of this business. Most of us [at Cardinal] all lose sight that he’s 90 years old … he’s a young 90.”

Williams, who does his part to live by the golden rule, doesn’t have an unusual outlook on life. He’s a simple, seasoned individual whose talent has spanned nearly a century.

“Walter really brings a certain amount of pride to the industry. He makes you feel good about being a part of it,” Birch said. “He maintains his own conduct and that’s magnified in the good of the industry. He is truly a unique gentleman.”

Ellen Giard is assistant editor of USGlass magazine.


Copyright Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.