Industry Mourns Dreamwalls Creator
November 29, 2011

By Sahely Mukerji, smukerji@glass.com

Freddie Thomas "Tommy" Huskey inspired many and touched a lot of lives, says Mandy Brame Marxen, vice president of marketing at Gardner Glass Products in North Wilkesboro, N.C.

Huskey, chief executive officer (CEO) of Gardner Glass Products, died on November 27, due to complications stemming from a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer that began when he was diagnosed in October. He was 57.

"The idea of creating an emotive marketing message for fabricated glass products was truly revolutionary to the industry," Marxen says. "Just like the brand he created and championed, Huskey was honest, emotive, and left a lasting impression."

Under Huskey's direction, Gardner Glass Products introduced the Dreamwalls family of glass products in 1999.

"It's important to remember that Tommy Huskey was the creator of the Dreamwalls vision for Gardner Glass Products, which is more than just an umbrella brand of value-added products," Marxen says. "Dreamwalls is the very core of who we are and what we do. We wake up every day trying to find new products and new uses for our products on every surface of the living and working environment. And Tommy Huskey gave us that inspiration. The very idea to create an emotive marketing message for fabricated glass products was truly revolutionary to the industry then … and it still is today."

Huskey was very creative and willing to work with people to develop solutions so everyone could benefit, says Pat Kelly, market segment manager of solar products at PPG Industries in Pittsburgh. "I have known Tommy since 2001," he says. "I was the product manager of Starphire glass when Tommy came to PPG to talk about the use of Starphire glass. He was going to offer a marketing plan to Lowe's. Tommy was an innovator. He was willing to push the limits to improve a product starting from PPG, to Gardner, all the way through the supply chain down to the consumer at Lowe's. He was a breath of fresh air."

Huskey was born in Wilkes County, N.C., to parents who were public school teachers. A young athlete, he was quarterback at North Wilkes High School and graduated from the Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.

Huskey's career in the mirror business spanned more than 35 years. He began his profession in the glass industry in 1980 as a territory sales rep for Carolina Mirror Co. in North Wilkesboro. He moved up the ranks within the company to regional sales manager, vice president of sales and, ultimately, the president and CEO in late 1990s at the age of 36.

"We lived in the same town and grew up in the same town," says Drew Mayberry, president and CEO of Lenoir Mirror in Lenoir, N.C. "I hired him in 1979 in Carolina Mirror, and we worked together from 1979-1990. Each time I got a promotion, Tommy took the slot I vacated. He took my CEO position after I left. We were business competitors since then.

"Tommy was a hard worker, very focused, and I could always depend on him," Mayberry adds. "He wasn't one you had to follow behind. You could count on him to do the task you agreed to do. He was an awfully good employee. He was tenacious. When he set his site on an objective, he ground away at it until he was successful."

Personally, "we had a lot of fun together," Mayberry says. "He was a lovable guy, enjoyable in a social setting. We went to the same church. I've watched him and his family grow and mature. He was a class guy."

In October of 1994, the Industrial Sales Force of Carolina Mirror established a scholarship in Huskey's honor at Wilkes Community College.

In the fall of 1996, Huskey joined Gardner Glass Products as executive vice president of sales and marketing. He became president in 1998, and in February of 1999, he and his management team bought out the company. He served as chairman and CEO of the company.

Huskey was active in all the business sectors of the company, flat glass, retail, OEM and distribution, and traveled extensively all over the world in service of the company.

"I saw him last at GlassBuild last year," says Scott Rickles, southeastern sales manager of USGlass Magazine in Stafford Va. "He was a great person to work with, and he treated you the same way as if he was your neighbor. You could talk to him about anything: family, friends or his golf game. He shot straight from the hips, and told you what was good and what was bad." Rickles knew Huskey for 25 years.

"Huskey was a very big family man," Kelly says. "Everything he did was for his family. When you called Tommy, the call would be first about how you were doing and how your family was doing. So, the first 10-15 minutes would be about your families. He had a never-dying spirit."

Like Rickles, Lee Harrison, president of Walker Glass in Montreal, knew Huskey for a long time. "I have had the pleasure of knowing Tommy for close to 25 years," Harrison says. "Throughout that time his commitment, not only to each of the companies he worked for, but to the industry as a whole, has been unwavering. He embodied the things that make the glass industry a great place to be. I will truly miss him."

Marxen says, "Just like the brand he created and championed, Huskey was honest, emotive and left a definite impression."

Huskey was an active member of the former National Association of Mirror Manufacturers, serving as director of the board in 1999-2000. He was a member of The Glass Association of North America.

In 2006, Huskey was instrumental in the efforts of bringing a community bank back to the local area. In July 2008, Great State Bank was chartered and opened. He served as vice-chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the Corporate Governance Committee from 2008 to 2011.

Huskey also was active in the local community with involvement in charities, athletic programs, and his church.

He is survived by wife Alison, teenage son Cole, and grown stepdaughter, Alaina; one brother, Ronnie; and his mother, Cleo. He also leaves behind a legacy of people to continue his work and vision at Gardner Glass Products. Randy Brooks, president, and Melissa Lackey, chief financial officer, will continue to manage day-to-day operations.

Visit Reins Sturdivant for full visitation and celebration of life details.

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