"The Admiral" Sets Sail to Make Final Voyage
Still reeling from the collapse and subsequent fire of a 10-story storage building at its Lomira, WI facility in early July that killed a cleaning subcontractor, Quad/Graphics suffered an even more devastating blow on July 29 with the accidental drowning of its visionary founder and president. Harry V. "Larry" Quadracci, 66, was laid to rest August 2 following a funeral mass and visitation at The Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, which was attended by about 2,000 people, including family, friends, customers, Quad employees, industry suppliers and fellow printers.
The funeral brought an end to an almost fairy tale-like success story of Quadracci, who was lovingly called "The Admiral" by Quad/Graphics employees in respect for his leadership abilities running the Quad "ship" and the Admiral costumes he sometimes wore during skits performed at elaborate employee Christmas parties.
I first met Harry in 1986 when I inducted him into the Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame. In 1998, we inducted his father, Harry R., into the Hall of Fame, in recognition of his pioneering efforts with the web offset process at W.A. Krueger. In typical fashion, Harry V. addressed the crowd eloquently for his father, who was near death. He credited the good name in the industry that his father had created, making it easier for Harry V. to launch his then-fledgling company.
I flew from Philadelphia to Milwaukee early that morning to attend the funeral. As I arrived at the Basilica—a magnificent, domed church built in 1901 that was refurbished, in part, with a gift of $500,000 by Quadracci—the line for the viewing stretched outside and around the front, through the basement and up into the church to the altar. Dressed in his Quad-blue, embroidered work shirt and wearing his trademark bow tie, Harry lay in a simple, walnut casket handmade by Trappist monks in Iowa—his Admiral's cap resting on the coffin. A video played on a large screen set up in the basement, showcasing his life, including past employee holiday parties where he sang show tunes and made grand entrances onto the stage riding an elephant, a horse and his Harley, or gliding through the air attached to a high-tension wire. The funeral was broadcast live to employees at Quad/Graphics' network of print production facilities, prepress operations and sales offices.
Bible readings were given by his sons-in-law and his brother, Leonard Quadracci, who directs Quad/Med, an on-site medical clinic for Quad employees and their families. Near the end of the service, his brother Tom Quadracci—who has now assumed the role of Quad/Graphics' president and CEO—gave a moving eulogy, followed by three of Harry's four children. "Heaven, watch out for Harry," he proclaimed, referring to his flamboyant brother who possessed an insatiable zest for life. "Harry did not just live life. He attacked life. And with such great energy, he did nothing in a small way."
There was hardly a dry eye in the church as each child recalled growing up with their almost larger-than-life father. Kathryn Quadracci-Flores, a surgeon, spoke of how many times people had told her how much they admired her father. "To me, he was just my dad," Quadracci-Flores revealed to the mourners. "He wasn't a storybook dad, a perfect dad, and he certainly wasn't a 'Leave-it-to-Beaver dad. But he was always there for me." Harry's youngest daughter, Elizabeth, who works in Quad/Graphics' New York City sales office, followed her older sister. Born the same year Quad/Graphics was founded and now engaged to be married, she spoke of their last venture together to shop for her wedding dress. "We did make it down this aisle together," she sobbed, "just not the way we had planned."
Son Joel Quadracci, vice president of print sales, concluded the family eulogy. "Some people say you built Quad/Graphics brick by brick," he related about his father's emphasis on the importance of a well-trained, customer-driven work force. "But that's not true; you built this company person by person."
Joel also related how Harry taught him the importance of humility and respect for people of all walks of life. Those in attendance knew that Harry was a big believer in continuous employee education, benefits like on-site day care centers and health and dental clinics, and in promoting from within, rather than hiring managers from outside the company. He also believed senior management should empower workers with the best equipment available, and then get out of their way.
The service concluded with a rendition of "When the Saints Come Marching In" played by two local high school marching bands, followed by bagpipers playing "Amazing Grace" as his body was carried from the church by family members serving as pall bearers. A reception followed immediately in the Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum, which was built with a $10 million gift from Harry and his wife Betty.
The day brought closure to Harry's illustrious professional career, his dedication to family values and his deeds as a philanthropist. It was a far cry from the early days of his career. By taking a second mortgage on their home, Quadracci, with his wife, founded Pewaukee, WI-based Quad/Graphics in 1971 with just 11 employees, a leased press and a borrowed binder. Now, 31 years later and with annual sales of $1.8 billion, Quad/Graphics is the largest privately owned printing company in North America, with 12,000 employees working from 35 facilities, including international partnerships in Argentina, Brazil and Poland.
The funeral program featured an appropriately titled poem, The Admiral, written by John Breska, a pressman at Quad's Saratoga Springs, NY plant. It read:
Where goes the Admiral this day
without his gallant crew
perhaps to chart the only way
beyond the heaven's blue
we'll miss his song
we'll miss the man
our lives forever changed
but dreams belong in dreams,
and so it's been arranged
that each of us will follow true
the wake he's left behind
we'll meet again, both ship and crew
and Admiral we will find.
If, like in England, the U.S. printing industry had a "royal family," the Quadracci clan would surely get my vote for being the graphic arts industry's "first family." Without a doubt, the Admiral, now on his final voyage, will go down in history as the most revered printer of our modern-day era. The unique printing empire he built is his greatest legacy, something that will never be duplicated.
-Mark Michelson, Editor, Printing Impressions