John Paleczny, the retired former president of Petersen Aluminum Corp., has passed away at age 72. Paleczny worked for Petersen for 49 years, from 1970 to 2019, overseeing the growth of the company from $3 million in revenue to more than $170 million when he retired.
Paleczny was instrumental in the evolution of Petersen and the PAC-CLAD brand of architectural metal cladding products. He joined Petersen on the anodizing crew and rose to the position of president, working closely with company founder Maurice Petersen and then with Petersen’s son Mike, who is the current president.
“John had more to do with the growth and success of Petersen than any single person that has ever worked here,” said Mike Petersen. “We were so fortunate to benefit from his intellect, market knowledge, sales skills and leadership. He mentored me early in my career and was a lifelong friend. I have heard from many of John’s friends in the industry and a common thread is a kind man, wise and quiet leader and friend to many. He was one of a kind and irreplaceable.”
During his 49-year career at Petersen, Paleczny also held volunteer leadership positions, including president of the Chicago chapter of the former National Association of Aluminum Distributors, chair of the Metals Service Center Institute’s aluminum division, and a term on the MSCI executive board. He also served on multiple committees and supporting groups in his career. In 2018 the Metals Service Center Institute gave its Lifetime Achievement Award to Paleczny in recognition of his contribution to the metals industry during his career.
Robert Weidner III, president and CEO of MSCI, said of Paleczny, “John was an icon in the metals industry, and a man of honor, decency, intellectual brilliance and compassion. He demonstrated empathy beyond any standard I’ve witnessed in business. He was a mentor, confidant and trusted friend. My heart is heavy, but life is richer because of John. While we mourn his leaving us too soon, we celebrate his life and thank him for making each of our lives better.”
Paleczny said in 2018 that his approach to management was to be hands-on while allowing people to do their work with the least amount of supervision. “I learned early in my career that it was critical to build a great team, set the goals and then let them have the necessary freedom to deliver.” Paleczny positively influenced numerous Petersen employees, including many on Petersen’s management team.
“John was a tremendous mentor for me. He followed in our founder’s philosophy as a tremendous salesperson, putting our customers first,” said Jon Snyder, retired Petersen vice president. “He was also always willing to accept change and not allow us to rest on any previous accomplishments, often on the leading edge of ideas to advance PAC and our industry. He was a tremendous businessman but more importantly a man of great character and principles which was evident in all he did. He will be dearly missed.”