President's Column - February 2024

President's Column,

You may notice a trend to this month’s magazine. That is because recently we lost a very dear friend of ours. 
Ben Hazard, former Corporate Product Specialist of Dynamic Dies, Inc. and IADD Vice President of Technical Services, passed away peacefully on November 13, 2023, with his loving family by his side. 

In mid-August, I had the pleasure of visiting Ben and enjoyed a few hours of his company. We discussed many things, but one topic was about his feelings on winning the 2023 IADD Presidential Award. As President, this was my first opportunity to choose the award recipient and Ben had come straight to mind for me. He truly had done so much for me from helping educate me with anything technical I may have questions on to just making me comfortable at any event we might find ourselves at, knowing I had a friend nearby. When I told Ben that I had chosen him, I could tell he was truly honored. 

The award was meant to be presented to Ben in Milwaukee, WI, USA at the IADD Annual on September 20, 2023. Unfortunately, Ben was unable to attend the event in person. We still were able to honor Ben by livestreaming the award speech and were thrilled to have been able to watch Ben’s acceptance speech video that he had prepared for us.

In conversation after the IADD Annual Meeting, Ben informed me that his family was putting together a Benefit Dinner in his honor. It was set for November 4, 2023. I told him I would absolutely be there. After thinking about how I was saddened not to have been able to give him his award in person, I wondered if this wouldn’t be an opportunity for me to re-present his presidential award to him. Ben loved the idea, and the plan was set! What Ben failed to mention to me at this moment was that the expected crowd size would be around 300. 

On November 4, I attended Ben’s Benefit Dinner. I was immediately greeted by Ben’s loving family, many Dynamic Dies, Inc. colleagues as well as some industry friends. The day of the benefit dinner had been a rough day for Ben, but it became clear that he had gathered up every ounce of energy that he had so that he could enjoy every minute of the event. Ben had a continuous flow of guests that patiently stood in line and waited for their turn to lean in and talk to Ben as he sat in his recliner at the front of the room. Other guests enjoyed a good taco dinner that was served as others browsed and put bids down for different prizes and packages up for auction. Many in the crowd were wearing their team’s jersey or shirt. Knowing Ben was all about Michigan [football], I was expecting to see a sea of blue. What I was not expecting to see was a family divided and having half of the crowd be Ohio State fans! You could see the family, regardless of their shirt, united in their love and support for Ben.

I was able to present Ben with his award in person. His family was amazing, and everybody really appreciated being able to hear Ben’s awards speech and learn about how accomplished Ben had been in his career and through his volunteering with the Association. I was not expecting anyone to come up and compliment me or thank me for my speech after I was done and was truly taken aback by how many people did. Ben’s family is an amazing group and were beyond proud of him. I could also tell that they shared his love for being a smart alec, as one of his aunts shouted out “I didn’t know Benji was smart!” The smile on Ben’s face when I handed him his plaque was priceless.
Just over a week after Ben’s Benefit Dinner, he passed. I traveled back to Ohio, USA for the funeral and expressed my condolences to Ben’s family; his wife, Linda and their three children; Austin, Bailey and Riley. Again, many people sported their team attire or wore a golf shirt in honor of Ben. In a touching speech, Ben’s brother Josh said he’d be cheering for Michigan in the upcoming [football] game vs Ohio State. He made it clear this would be a one time happening as he took off his Ohio State hat and laid it with Ben. The following weekend, Michigan did beat Ohio State, just as Ben would have wanted it. 

In less than three months’ time, we lost our friend. As I mentioned in my speech to Ben, I would like to focus on honoring Ben and who he was: a man who had a passion for learning and sharing his knowledge. A man who saw the importance in building relationships and collaborative efforts to help promote and achieve growth and success. 
Ben Hazard will be greatly missed. Please take a moment to remember him. If you have a fun story or memory with Ben that you’d like to share, please do. Let’s make sure to keep Ben’s memory strong. Let’s make him proud and continue working together to find solutions to our problems and to never stop learning.

Jennifer Thoroe is Director of Customer Service & Business Development for National Steel Rule, a steel rule manufacturer based in Linden, NJ, USA. She joined forces with National on November 1, 2018 after working in the industry and volunteering with the IADD for over 15 years. She moved up to NJ from GA in the summer of 2019. One pandemic and three moves later, Jennifer is finally settling into her home near the Jersey Shores with her awesome super-fantastic brother Tom and his even cooler dog, Kelowna.

She has consistently used her time and talents to bring greater value to IADD members, whether through chapter activities, managing volunteers, Board service or overseeing myriad membership recruitment and retention activities. For this, Jennifer received the 2017 IADD Cutting Edge Award, one of the Association’s highest honors. She is the first woman to serve as IADD president.

The President's Column appears in The Cutting Edge, the IADD's monthly magazine.