Tributes: COLE Publishing Lost Key Contributors in 2022

Tributes: COLE Publishing Lost Key Contributors in 2022

The past year, 2022, was a sad year for me personally and for the COLE Publishing family. To begin the year, we found out that Julie Gensler, the love of my life, had cancer. Many of you will remember Julie from her work on the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International, now the WWETT Show. She was instrumental in the success of the trade show, arranging and managing the educational program each year.

Julie and her daughter, Holly, worked to get continuing education credits from as many states as possible, and organized the times, rooms and speakers to provide the best possible experience for everyone. Julie managed the room blocks at each hotel, personally getting involved to resolve any issue that might arise. The annual appreciation party was always an event to remember because of Julie’s efforts from booking the entertainment, coordinating the refreshments, managing room set-up and any detail necessary to truly show COLE’s appreciation for the industry.

Julie was only 57 when she passed away March 7.  Julie taught me a lot about life, a lot about love. The sadness of her loss is something we deal with every day and something I doubt I will ever really get beyond.

Dec. 30 marked the passing of another key figure in COLE Publishing’s history. Pete Lawonn, co-founder of the company and inspiration for Pumper, Cleaner and the trade shows.

Pete and I were friends since I was 16 years old and I can honestly say I never met anyone who didn’t like Pete. In 1979 we started a publication for septic tank pumpers because Pete, who owned a septic business, wanted to sell a vacuum tank and install a larger one he had built for his truck.

The thought was, if he listed it in the local paper and someone bought it, he would be starting his own competition. Instead, he wanted to sell it to someone already in the business that needed a tank for a second truck. The more we discussed the idea, the more we realized there was no communication between people doing the same type of work. From that first issue of Pumper, we developed a camaraderie between manufacturers of equipment and end users, which were the seeds to becoming an industry.

I remember those early days fondly as Pete and I struggled without equipment to get the publications out, and somehow we always did, never missing a deadline. One day we received a letter telling us how great Pumper was, while suggesting we have a winter gathering so people could come together and share ideas. There was no hesitation as we started figuring out how to host a trade show. 

Much of what we did with the publications and the trade show was different from other publications or events. Everything Pete ever did was based on a sense of fairness, not on what someone else had done before.

As with many partnerships, our goals for the future differed and Pete decided we should end our partnership. Typical Pete, he had an easy and equitable solution. He made me an offer. If I wanted to take it, he would buy me out, but if I didn’t want to take it, I could buy him out for the same offer. Simple and equitable.

Pete taught me a lot about business, a lot about life.

I hope many of you reading this will remember Pete and Julie, two wonderful people who shared their lives with me. For that I am eternally grateful and will always consider myself so lucky, but will likewise never quite be whole without them.

Bob Kendall is owner and co-founder of COLE Publishing.


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