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Edward Cancilla, owner of Ajax Boiler Inc., and affectionately known as “Mr. C”, passed away peacefully the afternoon of February 8th. The past month, Ed had health complications that advanced quickly upon him. He was aware of his situation, and spent meaningful time with his family. He passed peacefully and painlessly, with his wife, daughter, grandson and son-in-law at his side. Ed is survived by his loving wife, Louise, her daughter Leslie, son-in-law Dave, grandchildren Cody and Chelsea, his devoted daughter Jane, her husband Dan, and grandson Byron. Ed also is survived by daughters Susan, Jean, and Joan and their respective children Ned, Kerrilyn, Christopher and Michael.
Currently recognized for his 40+ years as owner, CEO of Ace Tank & Heater / Ajax Boiler Inc, in Santa Ana, Ed was a remarkable man, touching everyone who came into his life. Many of his employees have been with him over 15 years, and are considered to be part of his extended family. He was always interested in people – hearing what they did, and how they came to be in their particular line of work. He loved discussions around business and politics. During his recent stays in the hospital, he always asked his nurses about their background, and what brought them into nursing. He always had an encouraging word for you. He enjoyed spending time with his wife Louise. Born in Portland Oregon August 14, 1921, Ed was raised during the depression days by his parents, Irene and Dominic, and had an older brother, Joe. Ed’s college education was interrupted from 1942-1946 when he fought in the war for his country. Afterwards, he finished his education at Oregon State University, earning double Bachelor of Science degrees in 1947 for Mechanical Engineering and Aero-Nautical Engineering.
He joined Westinghouse (now Siemens), and spent a year in in-depth factory training before transferring to Engineering Application Sales in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked on large heavy electrical installations such as turbines, generators and switches for power plants. In 1948 he transferred to Los Angeles, and during his time there, he began graduate work in Business Administration at UCLA. He spent 8 years with Westinghouse before accepting the position of Marketing Director with American Electric. Ed later joined the management consultant firm of Arthur D. Little, in Cambridge Massachusetts. As an example of the magnitude of some of those projects, one diversification study he did resulted in IT&T acquiring General Controls. When Little opened an office in Los Angeles, Ed was put in charge. He continued his studies at UCLA, completing the Executive Program in May of 1961.
Later, after a management change, Arthur D. Little began to close down certain locations. The morning Ed was told his location was closing, he had a new offer of employment by noon that same day – from Douglas Aircraft, where he spent his next 5 years. There he headed a talent laden department of as many as 35 men including Ph.D.’s, Business Administration Masters, etc. He reported directly to the VP – GM of the Missile and Space Systems Division, and his work directly influenced the daily operating activities of approximately 7,000 engineers.
At the same time, he continued his studies, studying business, business law, and property management. In 1967 he purchased Ace Tank & Heater Company. In 1969 he was awarded Patent No. 3,612,004 for his cone-coil Ace Water Heater, which is still in production today.
Shortly after purchasing Ace in 1967, Ed joined the National Laundry Coin Association (NCLA), and spent two years serving on the board. Ed was active in the Chamber of Commerce, enjoying politics and legislation, and served two years as President.
In 1970, Ed was awarded the National Automatic Laundry and Cleaning Council award for distinguished service for his service as President, and in 1972 the same group recognized Ed as Man of the Year for his efforts in promoting business growth. In 1977, Ed expanded his business operations by purchasing Buehler Tank & Welding, and soon after operated Ace Tank & Heater as Ace Buehler Inc. In 1983, Ed purchased Ajax Boiler, located in Gardena
Ed continued his community work, and in 1984 was recognized for his outstanding leadership and guidance during his term as President of the Orange Chamber of Commerce. In 1986 he served on the Economic Development Committee as General Chairman of the Orange 2000 project. And in 1988 the Orange Chamber recognized Ed as Business Person of the year.
In the 1990s, he merged the Ace and Ajax brands under the parent company of Ajax Boiler Inc, where he continued to work daily until December 18, 2009. His daughter Jane has worked by his side for the last 15 years, and will continue the Ajax operations. As evidenced by his accomplishments, Ed was a tireless and giving man. He was a man of character and integrity who will be deeply missed by his loved ones, his employees, and his customers. It is only fitting that his Memorial Service will be held on Monday, February 15, Presidents’ Day, at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach, CA. Flowers can be sent to the services, or donations can be made in his name to St. Joseph’s Hospital (714-771-8211), or Oregon State University, the Ed Cancilla Scholarship Fund (541-737-1469).
I am Jane, Ed’s middle daughter. I have worked with dad at Ajax for the last 15 years, and it’s been a true pleasure, a real honor. I have really enjoyed my time with dad, and I feel blessed that Dad invited me to join him, and blessed that I had the wisdom to take that opportunity.
Most of us here today have known dad the last 15 or 20 years, and his obituary takes you through his life as a young man. Today, I thought what I’d like to do for you is to fill in the blanks on the foundation that shaped him into the man that we knew today. So that as you carry him forward in your heart, you will have the complete picture of dad. You will know what shaped him, what his core values were, and you will be able to draw strength from his example.
Dad, as you know, is a man of strong character. He lived a full life for 88 years, in good health and good spirits. Warm-hearted, he delighted in simple things – the innocence of children’s laughter, a beautiful day, the love of his wife Louise, as well as complex things – we used to marvel at the genius of the human body. At work, he was encouraging and supportive, to everyone. We benefited from having such a patient man as our leader, and we knew that.
I always kidded dad about his long lifelines – that and the fact that he kept himself so healthy, that he would live for at least another 5 – 10 years. So, as you can imagine, the quick turn of events have caught everyone by surprise. And certainly, some of you had just seen dad at Christmas parties, so this was probably more of a shock for you.
But dad thought the end was here for him, and said as much. He said he had no regrets, and had had a good life. He told me he had his affairs in order, then paused, and mentioned he hadn’t selected his coffin yet. I paused, then asked if he had a preference. “Copper” he said – “because it will last forever.” Keep in mind, dad received a patent in 1969 for his copper coil water heater, which is still in production today. So I found a little bit of amusement in the consistency of this choice of his.
Anyway, dad thought the game was up, but we couldn’t believe it, so we kept at him to get stronger, to eat and drink more, so he can get better. And Dad was a trooper through these last few weeks, going through the motions for us. He did try, but I think he was doing it just for us.
There was a two week period where he stayed at my house, as a transition time from hospital to home. I have two of those orthopedic beds side-by-side, and I was able to sleep side-by-side with him every night. We would watch movies – he liked American President, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve got Mail type movies, and we’d watch the news.Sometimes we would lie with our heads together, looking up at the ceiling, and just talk.
We couldn’t talk too much, because it would tire him, but I’d put my head on his side of the bed, right up next to his, and we’d say the kind of things that needed to be said. My husband Dan tells me that at times he’d come in to check on us, and we’d be asleep, holding hands. So you can see from this, dad gave me a gift of time with him. As I said, he hung in there like a trooper. And when he went home to Louise, he did the same for her, giving her the gift of time.
And that was just like dad. Protecting those around him, helping them to understand truth, and find peace with it. I think that was one of his greatest gifts.
He was strong for us, and now it is our turn to be strong for him. That said, always remember dad with a soft prayer of gratefulness and gratitude for our time with him. When you think of him, remind our good Lord of what he meant to you, and say a small prayer for him.
And now, let’s remember dad through stories. About a year ago or so, my son bought his grandpa a diary type book. It’s the kind you fill out in response to its questions. I watched as the book sat there in his office and took its place among the other many tasks he’ll get to when he has some time, so I began to use some of our lunch times together – we had lunch together every day, and I’d use some of those times to read a question or two, and write down his response.
Here are a few of his stories:
Let’s start with something easy : How he got his name:
His older brother had already been given his father’s father’s name (Joe), so dad got his mother’s father’s name, which was Thomas Edward McCollum. But she didn’t like “Thomas”, so they went with Edward.
About his brother:
Joe was born at home, and it cost $5 for the birth (dad’s birth cost $10). He was born October 13, 1916, at 11:59 pm. They always celebrated Joe’s birthday on the 14th, until he enlisted and they discovered his birthday was really on the 13th. Dad got a chuckle out of that story.
That house where they were born – His father bought the lot and built the house to live in as a single man for the rest of his life. They lived there until dad was 14. Grandpa was in the produce business, delivering produce to hotels and restaurants, and there was a barn in the back of the house where thy stored potatoes and corn for winter. Dad used to have to sort out the bad potatoes. Somehow, I think that task stayed with dad, because I could see him, as people came into his life, separating the bad potatoes from the good ones.
His Favorite sport is football, because of the team work involved in every play, AND because emotions and determination are key factors in a game’ success. I think this is a perfect metaphor to dad’s standard operating procedures, and it is what he instilled into us at Ajax. I never liked football much, but I now see it as a great game of strategy, involving critical thinking and passion.
His Favorite vacation spot was Balboa, because he had so many fond memories of happy times.
His Favorite song is Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller, because it’s soft, it’s smooth, it’s mellow and it portrays love. Love is its main theme. And that was what dad was all about.
When I asked him What characteristic would you change about yourself? He chuckled and said: “Tall dark and handsome!” We had lots of laughs over that one. But I thought, two out of three isn’t so bad… Dad went on to say: “I wish I were more sociably friendly, like Jack Lanigan or your husband, Dan. I am grateful for what I have, and would not trade any of it, but I wouldn’t mind having it all.”
I don’t know why dad didn’t think he was sociable – I always thought he was. I had parties all the time, and he and Louise always came, dressed impeccably, and everyone loved them. He loved the parties; he always was interested in people – he was a great listener, and enjoyed hearing people’s stories. He appreciated people this way. Just recently, when he was leaving his hospital last Thursday, a volunteer came to escort him out. The volunteer was probably 10 years younger than dad, and dad looked at him and said “you look familiar…” and it turns out they were both raised in Portland Oregon. While there is no evidence of them having known each other, I am convinced that at some point in time, their paths had crossed, and dad had carried that moment with him, until the two met again. Dad was able to do this – keep you with him, in his heart. He was special that way.
His typical day was a disciplined day:
5 am up /exercise
5:35 – pool for stretching and laps
6:05 – shower breakfast, read paper, come to office
4:46 cream soda and nuts, time with Louise
5:30 – 30 minute nap, dinner, watch the news, read
9 or 9: 30 – bed
Speaking of his schedule, I am reminded that dad had a competitive streak….you see, I also exercise in the morning, and I’d get to the office around 8:30, while dad got in around 8:15 or so. One day I got in earlier, and when dad came in, he exclaimed “you beat me!”, to which I exclaimed back, “I didn’t know we were in a race”! And from then on, we had our little competitions – who exercised better, who weighed less, who got to the office first…It was an unofficial contest, but it was there. Sometimes I’d have fun with it and notch up my arrival time – getting to the office earlier, then he’d start getting in earlier… I finally decided it was best for both of us if he won the “who got to the office earlier” contest, because I didn’t want to be getting there at 7 am just to beat my dad!
Okay, back to dad:
He hauled wood in the fall.
Lit the furnace in the morning (of course that was later in his life when they got a furnace – he said it was colder than hell)
Dig up lot next door for garden
Helped his mom prep food for storage – canning etc.
There was no allowance, so he started working at age 10 or 11, with a magazine route. This, he said, was what shaped him the most. He started with the Ladies Home Journal, and he had to buy them, then deliver and collect, like an independent contractor. Then he graduated into papers (see the photo of him with his bike and papers). Some houses he had to go back 3 or 4 x to collect…this helped teach him basic practices.
Dad was a healthy and athletic young man, which is how he explains surviving kidney poisoning his freshman year in high school – this was before antibiotics – no one had ever survived something like that. He spent his freshman year on his back – and he would read adventure stories and cowboy magazines. Later, at age 17, he survived a carbon monoxide poisoning experience. So by age 18, dad had already faced down two life-threatening obstacles.
His special hideaway was in the attic, where he had built a pen for his pigeons, and he’d climb up there and just spend time with them. Sometimes he’d tie a string to their legs, and let them out on the roof. He loved those birds.
When asked what from his childhood was he most thankful for, he replied:
“This may sound odd, but the Depression Era instilled a work ethic that we might not have received otherwise, that today’s younger generation doesn’t seem to have. I graduated from high school in 1940, walked the streets daily that summer for a job in a machine shop. Never got one. Tried almost every day, 2-3 shops a day. One of the shops encouraged me, and I’d go back once a month. Turns out the owner’s son went to OSU and was in a fraternity, he called the fraternity and recommended me – that’s how I got in a fraternity – they called me! I didn’t think I could afford a fraternity, but they got me a job in their kitchen, which helped offset the costs. I had been raised frugally, and I found this a practical later in life.
We talked a bit about how today’s youth only know of fraternities through the entertainment industry, and what a shame that was. There have been several Thanksgivings at my house where dad would sit with a college-bound student, and try to talk them into considering the benefits of the fraternities, but to no end. They just couldn’t see it through his eyes.
Another question was about his parents
He said: “My father was thoughtful, honest, hard-worker. I always admired him for this, and tried to do/be the same. I was always amazed at how he could repair a car, or anything, by looking at it and figuring out the cause-and-effect. As a youngster, he tried to get a job with American Can. He got the job when they had a piece of equipment broken, and he took it all apart, and put it back together again, and it worked like a charm.”
About his mother, he said: “I used to walk with my mother in the evening. We’d just talk about life and things in general. I so enjoyed this, I tried to bring this to my girls, and my grandchildren. Mom set patterns for being polite, kind, not being angry and not letting anger stay inside.” Of the many comments I have received this past week about dad, one that is consistent is that no one ever had an argument with him. This is his mother’s doing – it is her gift to him, and his gift to us.
As for Memories of his brother, dad said
“Joe was always teaching me sports. He used to want me to be a catcher, because I was small and fast. He’d practice with me – man his pitches would burn!
Another time, I got caught in a riptide, and Joe pulled me out. He was always my big brother, taking care of me.”
What event most impacted you?
“#1 – Going to college. Not sure if this was an event. In effect, I moved out and was on my own. Started in 1940, then in 1942 sent to war. Deployed to France serving under Patton, a no-nonsense leader. After I returned and graduated, I tried finding work. I had interned at Boeing, but their business was down, went to So Cal and found that other aircraft business were the same. Went to No CA and found same. There I took an aptitude test, and ended up applying at Westinghouse, ending up on east coast in their graduate program.” So dad had to look long and hard for work as a young man, ending up on the east coast. But he never gave up, and this persistence has stayed with him as one of his strengths.
What would you never change about yourself?
“My sense of morals and ethics. We had religious education that taught moral values and ethical philosophies. It’s something you need to be reminded of, otherwise it’s easy to take shortcuts. Education needs to start this early – in Kindergarten. Public schools taught the “Golden Rule” – “do unto others as you’d have done unto you”. This is a fundamental rule, and should have been one of the commandments. (Side note, on one of the bouquet’s from a customer, the card reads “if everyone was ethical as you, the world would be a better place” – his customer wrote this, and think it bears witness to dad’s character).
To give you an example of dad living this, let me tell you about a trouble job we had 5 years ago, or so. It was difficult, and we spent hours with a particular engineer on the phone trying to find a resolution. Throughout the process, dad kept the tone respectful, helpful, and courteous. He lived that Golden Rule. That same engineer kept in touch with us over the years, and later interviewed dad on his radio show. He never met dad, and I myself only met him a month ago, but he got a sense of dad and Ajax from his dealings with us. Now, I want to read you the email I received from him the other day:
Your e-mail with the sad news was in my inbox this morning. The fact that an end for all of us in inevitable, and that your father had lived beyond the proverbial three score and ten does not lessen the sense of loss of a true national treasure. He was an outstanding example of the sobriquet “the Greatest Generation.” Over the years, I have developed a deep and abiding respect for the personal and professional integrity exhibited by the Ajax family. I know that sense of integrity only comes from the top. In a time of national crisis, one wonders where the “Mr. C’s” of the nation are. Are there any more coming to fill his shoes? He and you represent what has built this nation into the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth and what can rescue it from the current mess we are in if just left alone to do what you do best. Stay strong and honor the example of your father.
In closing, let’s all remember dad’s wonderful spirit, and as we collect ourselves and recover from our loss, let’s keep him alive in our hearts by living that Golden Rule, and embracing and exemplifying his remarkable outlook on life.
My dad was/is a great man. The fact that I can stand before you today in the face of such a great loss is a testament to the strength he instilled into me. I am so proud to tell you that I am my father’s daughter.