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Reflections on a Life Well Spent: in Memoriam of George Frederick Rexon, Sr.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 28th, the world lost a great man. Our founder, George F Rexon, Sr., known to all as Fred, passed away peacefully at the age of 94.

Fred was a unique and special man. He was a talented, personable individual with a tireless work ethic second to none. He was a friend, a mentor, a father, and in my case, an exemplary grandfather who I looked up to and strived to make proud. He was a risk taker, he was fearless, and he pushed people to be better versions of themselves. He was man of great civic pride, and a great example to us all.

A lifelong resident of Haddonfield, NJ, his ties to our community run deep and his commitment to bettering the world around him was evident every day of his life. At age 21, Fred joined the Haddon Fire Department No. 1. He was proud to offer his time, blood, sweat, and tears to America’s second oldest volunteer fire company in continuous service. It was around this same time that he founded his business, Precision Parts Company, in his garage. His life of volunteerism and entrepreneurship started young and persisted until his death.

An only child with a stern but loving mother, he was taught structure and compassion. From his father, Fred learned the skills and work ethic that would be so critical to his lifelong successes. His love for our community was entirely self-taught, a strong testament to his character. He was a lifelong member of the Haddonfield United Methodist Church, yet another organization he left a lasting impression on. Family, community, faith, and a life of entrepreneurship were the pillars of his purpose.

Contrary to the many young men born in the early 1920’s and graduates of the high school class of 1941, Fred did not fight in World War II but instead stayed committed to his community back home through his involvement with the fire department and ambulance association. It was during this time he worked at Atlas Instrument (later Beeman Manufacturing), supporting industry that supplied our armies and infrastructure. Fred is a great example of how contributions to war efforts and service to one’s country go beyond military service.

It was after the war that Fred’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to the founding of Precision Parts Company in 1946. It all started with simple tools, a lathe, a drill press, and the drive to support local industry in the Delaware Valley. Precision Parts grew organically, built on hard work and trust between Fred and his customers. The business grew during this booming industrial period, both in size and personnel. Precision obtained larger projects and worked with larger customers, such as General Electric and Campbell’s Soup. (The company name was later changed to Precision Automation to reflect a new focus on larger, more complex systems and a wider range of products and services).

In 1953, with the ambition to support General Electric who was opening up the newly constructed Appliance Park in Louisville, KY, Fred established a second facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The building was an old movie theater which required the equipment to be distinctively leveled on its sloped floor. Precision Parts, then Precision Automation Company, Inc. of Indiana, and now called paco manufacturing®, is an integral component of Precision Automation’s corporate family and another continual testament to his legacy.

Of course, his volunteerism and commitment to his business weren’t the only things that interested Fred. In the 1950’s his family grew, and he became an important member of the Ocean City Yacht Club, serving as Commodore and dozens of other positions. At this time he was racing speedboats during the summer months, culminating in two Jersey Speed Skiff National Championships in 1958 and 1959. During this period he set the Speed Skiff speed record of 65 miles per hour which landed him on the cover of Rudder Magazine. Fred made success look easy- it seemed to follow him wherever he went.

Obviously, there is only one way to become successful and Fred knew it: hard work. He was not superhuman, as none of us are, but few worked harder than this great man. He poured his life into making his business a success and his community better. Of course he had some fun along the way.

In a promotional tape for Precision Automation in 1985, Fred is quoted as saying “Who in the world is crazy enough to say that we’ll design it for you, we’ll build it for you, we’ll install it for you, and guarantee it to work? We will get the job done.” He was fearless, he trusted his team and no job was too challenging. He always stood by Precision Automation’s capability and quality. He was frequently seen working a Bridgeport, rolling up his sleeves to assemble a system, and working with all facets of his team to meet a project deadline. He spent sleepless nights working, personally delivered product to support objectives and deadlines, and spent many holidays installing equipment during our customers’ only available down times. He led from the front and our company will never forget this virtue.

A few years ago, I spent several hours with my grandfather talking in his basement. We talked about our family, his mother and father, his grandparents, his hunting trips, speedboat races, his old friends and colleagues, and of course, our business. There is far too much material to ever summarize, but one thing is certainly worth noting and has made a lasting impression on me. He never talked about his accomplishments; it was always “our accomplishments,” “our people,” “our group,” and “the team”. He told me that nothing is more important than the people around you, and he meant it. He truly loved “his people” and felt forever indebted to their contributions to his and the group’s success. “Our people define our business, never forget that,” he said. The fact that Precision Automation is a family and an employee-focused organization is a lasting tribute to Fred. Appropriately, Precision Automation’s longevity and success will forever be a lasting tribute to him.

A story about Fred Rexon, Sr. would not be complete without noting the many contributions to our local community, none more prevalent than his contributions to the Haddon Fire Department No. 1 and the Haddonfield Ambulance Association. Taken from the Fire Company’s touching tribute posted to Facebook on November, 29th:

“It is with deep regret that the Officers & Members of Haddon Fire Company No. 1 announce the passing of Fred Rexon Sr. Badge #16. Fred passed away last night, November 28, 2018 at the age of 94 years young. Fred served as a member of Haddon Fire Company since 1945 and held positions of President and Trustee before going to Non-Active status in 2001. Fred continued to serve Haddon Fire Company and the community as a Non-Active Member until his death compiling 73 years of service. Fred also served as Chairman of Haddonfield Ambulance Association and Board Member for over 70 years and was recently awarded the position of “Chairman Emeritus”. All of our sympathy and condolences go out to his family.

…Fred will receive full fire department honors. Rest in Peace Fred, we will take it from here.”

 This touching tribute among others, along with the dozens of touching personal comments and “shares” show how loved he was among our local community. The posts and comments can be viewed here: Haddon Fire Company No 1 Tribute

We will continue to be proud of his contributions to other organizations, such as the Haddonfield United Methodist Church where he served as Trustee & Property Chairman, the Haddonfield Masonic Lodge #130 where he was 32nd degree mason, the Shriner’s, and the Rotary Club of Haddonfield. He served as a Trustee of the Haddonfield Civic Association and the Haddonfield Foundation. Fred was Haddonfield’s Citizen of the Year in 1992 and twice was bestowed Ocean City’s Outstanding Community Performance Award for his community service.  Fred was also a member of Tavistock & Seaview Country Clubs and is a Past Commodore of the Ocean City Yacht Club. It almost seems as if there wasn’t an organization or club that he didn’t have an impact on.

There is a lot to know about a man who lived a long, happy, and successful life.  More than can be conveyed in a single narrative. He touched countless lives and mentored many. His business provided opportunities to hundreds of people over 70+ years. Presumably, the best we can do is to thank this wonderful man:

Thank you from the hundreds of Precision Automation employees over the years and their families. Thank you from Indiana, where although he led from afar, Fred was a guiding light. Thank you for leading from the front, for rolling up your sleeves and getting the job done no matter the challenge. Thank you for the continual sacrifices you made on behalf of Precision Automation. Thank you for your wisdom and guidance, and for setting an example for all of us to follow. Every member of the Precision Automation family, past, present and future owes you so much.

We will miss the gentleman who gave us our beginning; but let us not mourn him, let us celebrate his life and accomplishments. Fred made the most of everything he had and left nothing on the table. He served our family, business and community as a shining example for others to follow. He was the textbook definition of a leader. We are forever grateful for him and are tremendously honored to be a part of his legacy.

Lastly, on a personal note as his eldest grandson, I’m proud to bear his name and follow in his footsteps at the company that meant so much to him. It’s an honor and privilege that I never take for granted and hold very close to my heart.

Thank you Fred, for your example of a life well spent. Rest in peace knowing that your company and legacy are in good hands.

Fred’s Obituary can be found here: https://kainmurphy.com/obituary/george-fred-frederick-rexon-sr/

Please feel free to leave any comments on our company Facebook page posting here: In Memoriam of George Frederick Rexon, Sr.

 

Composed by: Daniel F Rexon – 4 December 2018

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