James Adam Ulmer Jr., of Uniontown, is being remembered as a talented businessman who cared about his family, employees and community.
Ulmer, who was owner and president of E.W. Bowman Inc. for more than 40 years, died Oct. 2 at age 88.
“He was a great guy. I was glad to be his friend and lucky to be his son,’’ said Bill Ulmer, of Uniontown.
“Jim knew all the employees,’’ said Tex Show, of Uniontown, who retired from Bowman after 43 years. “He knew the families of the employees. He would ask how your children were. He was a very caring person.’’
“He’d meet you one time and always knew your name. He’d ask how are you? How’s your wife? Your kids?’’ said Bill Abraham, of Fairchance, who worked at Bowman 27 years and was assistant plant supervisor. “That was important to him - how was your family?’’
The son of James A. and Mary Howard Ulmer Sr. was born in Bucyrus, Ohio, and grew up in Willoughby, where he excelled in sports and was senior class president.
Ulmer served in the Army in Germany from 1951-53, before beginning his career.
“He was good at turning small to medium-sized companies around,’’ said Bill. “He started in Ohio. We moved to Louisiana and Florida and Michigan, eventually landing in Uniontown.’’
In 1976, Ulmer became president of Bowman, manufacturer of annealing and decorating furnaces for the glass industry, previously working for the company in Tampa. He bought Bowman in 1978.
“He worked to expand the company globally and improve manufacturing quality, and it paid off,’’ said Bill. “Eventually, the company sold to better than 50 percent of glass producers in the world.’’
Abraham remembered Ulmer working all day, going home for dinner and then returning at night to do business in different time zones.
“He was a go-getter for the company, He beat the bushes looking for work,’’ said Show.
“We would be getting slow on work sometimes and he would take off, go overseas and when he came back, he’d always had work,’’ said Abraham.
Ulmer traveled to 57 countries as business expanded.
“He saw the best parts of the world and willingly went into some of the roughest parts because that’s where the business was,’’ said Bill, who noted his father decorated his home and business with photographs he took on his trips.
Show said “I traveled all over the country and got to see so much I probably would never have seen if not for the company. Many employees traveled all over the world: China, India, Africa, Australia, South America – you name it.’’
Bowman was named Pennsylvania Exporter of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1992.
“He would have always told you the company earned it, not him,’’ Bill said of the honor.
Ulmer enjoyed a good relationship with the United Steelworkers union that represented the employees. At one point, many families had two to three generations working at Bowman.
Show, part of the union negotiating committee, said, “It was a rewarding place to work. You don’t stay at a place long if you don’t like it.’’
Ulmer also enjoyed working, still coming into the company until a few years before it was sold in 2017 to Henry F. Teichmann Inc.
Maintaining a deep affection for Uniontown, Ulmer served on boards and committees. He willingly donated to the hospital, library and organizations that brought business to the area.
Ulmer helped individuals, whether it was money, a reference or a job tip.
Abraham remembered employees finding a man sleeping in an office trailer at the back of the plant. Ulmer talked to the man and discovered where he lived.
“Most people would say, ‘Get out! You’re trespassing,’’’ said Abraham. “Mr. Ulmer took the guy home.’’
Family was important to Ulmer, who is survived by his wife, Eleanor, four children, two stepdaughters, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“He was always interested in our education and personal growth – not only his children’s education but his grandchildren’s education,’’ said Bill.
For many, Ulmer was someone to count on.
“He was there when you needed him,’’ said Bill. “He was a guiding beacon for how to treat people and live your life.’’