Farewell to an industry champion

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell pays his respects to Ritec’s Stephen Byers, who died recently.

This week, I am going to hand over this comment to John Austin of Austin Harlow Flitter who sent in his ‘memory’ of Stephen Byers.
If you want to read other memories of Stephen, you can read the Glass Times post on LinkedIn, where people have been leaving their comments.

“I would like to offer this memory in respect of the huge impact Steve had on so many lives.

“My now retired business partner David Flitter, and I came into the glass industry around 40 years ago by joining Glass Age magazine from other publications. We took to the industry immediately, and just weeks later were at our first Glasstec in Dusseldorf, which is where we first met Steve and Karen Byers.

“It is true to say that these two were a major part of the reason why we took to the industry so readily. They had an idea and wanted to run it by someone to see if it had potential. And if it did, how best to market it.

“We had a long and interesting conversation on our stand and knew that they were onto something. We were pleased to provide advice and guidance as to who else in the industry to speak to in order to get the ball rolling.

“The rest, as they say, is history.

“Thus began a long and fruitful relationship that changed an industry. For after moving on from Glass Age and starting our own PR and marketing agency, Steve and Karen – or by then Ritec Clearshield as it was known – became one of our very early clients.

“One of Steve’s proudest moments was appearing on TV’s Tomorrow’s World where they won the annual Innovation Award having persuaded Prince Charles to throw a bucket of mud at the Clearshield-treated window display, where, happily, all the mud slid off, thus demonstrating to the world how effectively the product worked.

“Steve was not only interesting and good company, he was a worker, driven to make a success of this new idea, and he did. He also fully acknowledged Karen’s role in instigating the idea, and greatly valued her ongoing support in building the business.

“Steve was self-effacing and rather humble as an individual, not for him the temptation to become brash, or flashy in this burgeoning glass and window industry of the early to mid 1980s, unlike many Americans, and very unlike Texan Americans in particular.

“Steve was very generous and kind to us in our early days, a trait that was also shown elsewhere when he helped many others in all walks of life wherever help was needed. He was a good host, loving nothing better than taking a group of people out on his narrow boat, the Poly Mer, and having a good time. I have memories of a few headaches to thank him for.

“Although he was a Texan, Steve loved being in Europe, and in London, where he made his home. Finding an ancient cannon buried in the garden of his canal-side home, he purchased another one to make a proper display, saying ‘everyone should have two cannons’.

“He never lost his eye for a good idea, and when we suggested using one of the Rhine river cruisers in Dusseldorf as a floating hotel for the duration of Glasstec, he had the foresight to immediately take on the idea and offered to underwrite the cost, and so began the tradition for having many key figures in the glass industry stay on board, becoming something of a focal point of the show.

“When we lost our great mutual friend and industry colleague Cliff Rankin, it was mentioned one night over dinner that it was a pity that there had been no industry memorial held for him. Without hesitation Steve said ‘let’s do it, and we’ll underwrite the cost’.

“That’s the Steve that we knew: kind, generous, humble, always ready to step up. A friend. That’s how we’ll remember him.

“We are comforted in the knowledge that Karen will continue to nurture his legacy, by doing what Steve and Karen always did, taking care of ‘the family’. As husband and wife, theirs was a true partnership in every sense.

“Sleep well Steve, you deserve your rest now.”

John Austen, Austen Harlow Flitter.