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The Steel Distribution Business Loses a Legend

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Retired service center executive Norman E. Gottschalk Jr. passed away Sunday at the age of 73, surrounded by his family. He served as CEO of pipe and tube specialist Marmon/Keystone, Butler, Pa., for 25 years until his retirement in 2014.

Metal Center News’ Executive of the Year feature was still in its infancy when Gottschalk was honored for his work guiding Marmon/Keystone, a reflection of his outsized status in the metals distribution industry. He was the third recipient of the honor, behind Olympic Steel’s Michael Siegal and retired Reliance Steel & Aluminum CEO David Hannah. Gottschalk oversaw his company’s growth from eight locations to 61 facilities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, making it one of the largest distributors in North America.

“Norm Gottschalk was an icon, and I don’t use that word loosely,” says M. Robert Weidner III, president and CEO of the Metals Service Center Institute and a longtime friend of Gottschalk, who served as chairman of both the MSCI and National Association of Steel Pipe Distributors during his career. “There are only a handful of people in the distribution industry that are truly iconic.”

To Weidner, it was Gottschalk’s combination of skills that truly set him apart as a company, and industry, leader. He had a marvelous analytical and business mind, and M/K was out front in the use of Supplier Quality Systems, Vendor Managed Inventory and advanced Just In Time delivery programs.

Equally important, Weidner says, was his commitment to his employees. “He understood that it was the people who made the business work.”

That attitude was on display in 1999, during his conversation with Metal Center News upon his receipt of the Executive of the Year honor. Gottschalk told MCN that one key to managing people was that employees wanted to be recognized for their good work. “Recognition is so important and it doesn’t cost you anything, but it’s got to be sincere,” he said.

Weidner says Gottschalk managed it all without ever losing sight of what was truly important, his family. He is survived by his wife Patricia, two children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

“It’s a sad day for the steel industry,” Weidner says.