Edward Paley January 12, 1924 – July 19, 2012
My father is the embodiment of the American dream. He was a war hero, a self-made man who started and built a large and successful company, and wonderful father and family man. He was an inspiration to all who knew him, and especially to his family. His creativity knew no bounds and his passion for ideas and invention was all-consuming. He was an entrepreneur before the word became commonplace. He was the best kind of teacher – one who taught by doing. All those around him were his pupils. He lived an incredibly busy and productive 88 years and has left a wife, four children, and ten grandchildren as well as a legacy of innovation, business success, good humor, charitable giving, exemplary army service, and close relationships with his family, friends and business associates.
I would like to tell you a little about his life – his service to our country during World War II, his passion for innovation in business, and what he was like as a father.
10th Mountain Division
He can describe his war experience much better than I can. He wrote letters home to his parents almost daily on the army issued American Red Cross stationary. His mother saved all of his letters, and he kept them upon her death. Several years ago, my sister Jane created a binder of all of his letters and military awards. As I mentioned, he was a war hero for our country fighting the Nazis. He was in active combat in the Italian Alps as a member of an advance guard intelligence unit, in the famed 10th Mountain Division, also known as the ski troops. His mission was to go beyond the front lines and gather intelligence on enemy positions. I would like to read a few brief excerpts from his letters as well as some of his commendations.
May 30, 1945
Dear Mother and Dad,
One thousand men presented arms on a rain-soaked mountain as taps sounded in tribute to their dead—these notes reverberated around the world as soldiers in every theatre honored their fallen comrades. We shall not break faith with them. At retreat this evening, I was presented with the Bronze Star. I am very proud of this award because it represents an act by which a buddy of mine is today alive; the other died in my arms. I am sending you the citation as I know what it means to you.
Now that the battle is over, I believe that there is no harm in mentioning battle casualties – they were not light. As you already know, my intelligence section is composed of 7 men – three are dead, one had his legs blown off, one lost his arm, and the sixth was sent back because of battle fatigue. Yes, six (of seven) men are no longer with us – There is no conceivable reason why I was not one of them. I broke every rule imaginable. I rarely wore my steel helmet, never carried an entrenching tool or first aid packet – I volunteered for every patrol and made up my own missions when none were available. For some fool reason I craved this sort of excitement and was scared only after the mission was accomplished. And yet I did not die. When a mortar shell burst near me injuring four men, I only received a slight cut on my knuckle—why? It is quite difficult to remain agnostic…
The citation reads:
June 31, 1945
Dear Mother and Dad,
Today was your day as well as my own. If you were only there it would have been complete. The regimental combat team composed of the 1st, 2nd, And 3rd battalions plus attached engineers and artillery stood at attention while a small group of officers and enlisted men were decorated with the army’s third highest award – the Silver Star. I can only remember hearing my name announced—then the fifty foot walk up to where Major General Hayes was standing. I saluted; he did the same. He spoke as he pinned the medal on my tunic: “Sergeant,” he said, “You have the combat infantry badge, the Bronze Star, and now the Silver Star. I am proud to have you in my command.”
The citation for the Silver Star reads:
My father was a war hero in the service of his country. However, there were comic moments as well. My father was in an advanced intelligence outfit that probed enemy positions beyond the front lines. While he was on a reconnaissance mission in the Italian Alps, he entered a small town with a group of his men. He was immediately surrounded by excited townspeople speaking to him in rapid Italian. Unfortunately, he did not speak Italian, but they gestured for him to follow them into the town church. Seated in the pews were a group of men in their underclothes. The Italians were speaking and gesticulating and my father, looking at the crowd seated in the pews, figured that they wanted him to make a speech. So he went up to the pulpit, pulled out his Italian dictionary and, as best he could lauded the cooperation of the partisan Italians in the advance of American troops. The men in the pews seemed to listen politely, but the Italians that brought him into the church were getting more and more agitated. As it turned out, the men in the pews were captured German soldiers that the Italians wanted to turn over to the American army.
That story made the New York papers and we still have the clipping.
My father returned home after the war, went to college and business school on the GI Bill and married my mother in 1953. He went to work as a sales manager for Exeter Manufacturing, an industrial textile company. In the early 1960’s Exeter was sold and he realized that he would have to find something else to do. He had a family of four children and a house with a large mortgage. But he also had one other thing – an idea.
My father considered himself a “seat-of-the-pants engineer.” This means that although he didn’t have a formal engineering degree, he had lots of ideas. He would invent many things in his mind and he figured, somehow, he would find a way to make these great inventions work. He liked to read technical journals to see what the latest technologies were and how he could do something with them. One day he happened upon a NASA technical bulletin and read about the ongoing problem of micro-contamination in high-precision devices that were being developed for the space program. These contaminants, which were then in the form of dust particles and fibers, would cause this precision equipment to malfunction. The phrase “contamination control” struck home for my father. I have often observed that all he needed was a phrase or group of words to form an idea around and he was off and running. From his textile experience at Exeter Manufacturing, he knew he had a solution to one of the basic problems in the field. With that and a $5,000 loan from my grandfather, he started a new business in the basement of our house. His wife and children were the first employees. I remember packing boxes with my brothers for my allowance. My mother handled the paperwork, and my father would invent. He loved developing and inventing new products and he would read journals and technical magazines, travel and walk trade shows, all in search of new ideas. He was constantly creating and if one idea didn’t work out he would have ten others to replace it. He developed numerous new innovative products and the business grew.
Very soon we outgrew the basement. He rented space in an office building in Westwood and set up some small-scale manufacturing. That space was also outgrown quickly as the business expanded. He then purchased a building in Hillsdale which was to become the home of the Texwipe Company for many years, until we built our own corporate headquarters in Upper Saddle River.
My father’s creativity and his passion for new ideas were infectious. I grew up with this as my education. One could not have asked for more. I used to walk trade shows with him as he was in search of the next great idea. I saw first-hand how the creative mind works and that has never left me. With the development of the semiconductor industry in the 1970’s and 80’s, the business grew by leaps and bounds. Much like Steve Jobs at Apple, my father was a creative visionary whose passion for new products not only drove the success of the company but created a culture of innovation that was unmatched by any other company in our industry. He was always hands-on and his enthusiasm inspired all those around him. Texwipe continued to grow and by the time we sold it in 2001, we had over 400 employees, offices throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia; large manufacturing plants in North Carolina, Mexico, and the Philippines; two joint ventures in Taiwan, and our beautiful corporate headquarters in Upper Saddle River New Jersey which my mother and father designed.
Employees not only respected my father, but I think they loved him. He wasn’t just a boss; he was a role model, teacher, and friend. We were a family business in the best sense of the word in that we considered our employees as family and I believe they felt the same way.
You would think that with all the demands of growing a business that my father would not have much time for family life. But that would be incorrect. His life revolved around his family; he was always there for all of us. I cannot recall a time when he was too busy to attend to any of our needs or wants. In a way, the business was his hobby, and we were his real work. He was not only a wonderful father, but also a role model for all of his children on how to be a father. For Bill, Doug, and myself – as well as Jane—you can see so much of him in the ways that we raise our children. There are so many stories to tell – some very funny and embarrassing, but I’ll leave them for the Shiva.
Finally, I want to do something that is not usually done at funerals. I would like to pre-announce the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for medicine. The prize this year will be awarded to my mother, Florence Paley, whose energy and tireless devotion to my father’s health kept him miraculously alive over the past almost 50 years. My father had a major heart attack in his early 40’s and, as the doctors have said to us in amazement, nobody survives an event like that for such a long time. All I can say is that he survived because of my mother’s iron will for him to survive. Pharmaceutical companies world-wide are competing to try and synthesize all of those traits my mother possesses to create the next block-buster medicine for prolonging life. My mother’s tireless efforts from diets to doctors to programs and therapies are what gave us the gift of another half century of my father. For this, at a minimum, she deserves the Nobel Prize.
I also want to acknowledge another person who went way above and beyond what was required to ensure that all of Dad’s health needs were taken care of. This person is Dr. Steven Zaretsky who for years was at my father’s side whenever there was any kind of problem. For the past two months, Steve was at our house and with my father every day, giving critical advice, help, and guidance. Steve, both as a physician – and really a third brother, your help through this difficult process was beyond compare, and I want to publicly thank and acknowledge you.
Isaac Newton, perhaps with some false modesty, described in a letter how he had made his great discoveries. He said, "If I have seen further than others, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."
When I reflect on my father, and I’m sure I speak for Bill, Doug, and Jane as well, I believe that everything that we are, everything that we have accomplished is because we too have stood on the shoulders of a giant.
-Steven J. Paley
Eulogy at given funeral 7/22/12