Bob Baeppler was presented the 2023 Award of Merit at the opening session April 4th for the 119th annual meeting of the American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) held in Tucson, Arizona. A 45-year active member of the AWPA, Bob Baeppler, has participated in, and led a wide range of technical committees and task groups, serving as president of the AWPA in 2018. Bob’s outgoing personality and quick wit made him a natural as he instituted the “Get Acquainted Breakfast” tradition of meeting with new members at each annual AWPA meeting. Bob said, “One of the things I am proudest of is the number of people it has been my honor to host at what I called the Get Acquainted Breakfast or GAB over the past 20 years. I have had great employers that have supported this effort.”
Bob’s career in this industry includes every facet of pole production—buying, peeling, grading, drying, treating, and finally selling them, plus about the same experience with crossties. He has sold oil and preservative into treating plants, learning from those that had been in the business longer than he had. Bob’s current role is Business Development Manager with Viance, LLC.
Bob recalls, “There is something to learn from almost everyone. From one of my employees, Nathaniel Williams, aka Bubba, I learned some valuable lessons. Bubba likely had no more than a 9th grade education. He grew up in tough times in Navasota Texas. One day a pitiful creature composed of little more than a sack full of bones—a dog so eat up with mange and starving that you could see every bone in its spine and even in its tail. Ninety percent of its body had no hair and was covered in sores. I love dogs but for the first time in my life I thought the most humane thing to do was to put this dog down. Bubba took a five gallon bucket of creosote (not sure there was any law against it in 1977) and took that dog home and bathed it every day in shampoo and a half cup of creosote. A few months later Bubba brought a healthy shiny black lab mix dog to the plant and asked if I had ever seen that dog. I confessed I had not and then he told me this was that dog he had rescued, and he named it “Creosote.” As you can imagine that dog worshipped Bubba. I learned two things that day. One was an unorthodox cure for mange, certainly not on today’s creosote label, and two, was that I needed to look past the appearance of animals and people to see what counted was what was inside.”
Bob notes, “A lot of time has passed since I first joined the AWPA in 1978. A lot of great people I have met have come and gone. I don’t know how I could mention one and not the others for fear of forgetting someone… but I have learned a lot from Dennis Morgan, Colin McCown, Jerry Farley, Walt Osterman, Jeff Morrell, Mike Freeman, Kevin Ragon, and a host of others. If there is one thing I would like to see in our industry it would be a serious amount of energy devoted to getting new members.”
“I guess my parting message would be that we have a choice in how to react to circumstances we find ourselves in. Are we welcoming to strangers or not? Are we sympathetic to those with infirmities or not? Let’s make a choice that would make our parents, spouse, and children proud.”