John Conrad

I’ve been in this industry longer than most. How long? I started readingThe NEWSin 1970 when I joined Rheem in Chicago as the sales promotion manager for the Air Conditioning Division. I left for a couple of stretches to see if the grass was greener, but somehow I always came back. Why? A lot had to do with the people.

We have a lot of good people in this industry. We compete hard, but at the end of the day, we look out for each other. There is no better example of this than the story of Joe Groh.

Joe grew up in the industry starting with a family HVAC business. His career included stops at Lennox Industries, Titus, and most recently as marketing manager of PCI Industries. A freak bicycle accident on Father’s Day left him paralyzed from the neck down.

His story could have tragically ended there, but two things happened: Joe refused to give up and let his situation get the better of him, and several industry friends and associates went into action. I talked to Joe just a couple of weeks after the accident, and he already had decided that he was going to continue working and contributing to the industry. He even set a goal of obtaining a voice recognition computer.

Joe shared his vision and goals with a couple of industry friends from his days at Lennox, Vicki LaPlant of VLE Enterprises and Mike Hajduk, president of Callahan Roach, and they sprang into action. To raise money they organized a charity golf tournament in the Dallas area. I was privileged to be among 45 friends and family for the first annual Joe Groh SCI Fund Golf Outing.

As a result of the money raised, Joe ordered the voice activated software, and would you believe it, he was even able to order environmental controls so he can control thermostats, the opening and closing of doors, lighting, and the television in his home.

Joe also used the occasion of the golf outing to announce the formation of the Joseph Groh Foundation, which is dedicated to providing financial support to people in the construction and HVAC industries who have suffered permanent spinal cord injuries and other permanent and life altering disabilities. Confined to a wheel chair, using a voice recognition computer, he is going to work for other people who need help. That’s what I call good people.

Want to learn more about Joe and his foundation? Go to

Publication date:06/01/2009