A. William Trucksess, 87, of Moorestown and Cape May, an industrial engineer who took the helm of his family's company and built it into a national leader in the sign industry, died Thursday, March 1, of heart and respiratory failure at Virtua Memorial Hospital, Mount Holly.
In the 1960s, when Mr. Trucksess was in his 30s, he became president of the Philadelphia Sign Co., founded in 1911 by his father, Andrew Paxson Trucksess, who was 18 at the time.
His father bought a sign business for $500 and started out delivering hand-painted signs by pushcart. Mr. Trucksess transformed the firm from a custom-sign shop into a multi-million-dollar enterprise capable of serving national, regional, and local customers.
During the 1970s and 80s, when ATMs became common, banks merged, and many clients expanded nationally, Philadelphia Sign followed the trends, adding large-scale production capacity and computer technology, according to a company history.
Later, when the company needed more space, Mr. Trucksess moved it from Northern Liberties to Palmyra. Mr. Trucksess oversaw all corporate operations until 2012, when he relinquished the presidency but remained chairman of the board. He stayed involved until his death.
Bob Mehmet, the current president and CEO of Philadelphia Sign, said Mr. Trucksess was the consummate entrepreneur. "He was a fiscal conservative, and he knew exactly what he was doing. I've known him since 1973 and been working here full-time since 1980, and he's been nothing but an inspiration to me," Mehmet said.
"His success was [because] he never gave up, he did whatever he had to do, to get the job done and the price down. He had a direction, and that's the way this company grew."
Mr. Trucksess was born in Haddonfield to Andrew and Margaret Trucksess. He graduated from Haddonfield Memorial High School in 1947 and earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Lehigh University in 1951.
In 1955, Mr. Trucksess married Janice Rundle, whom he had met in high school but never dated until after college. The couple had three daughters and raised them in Cherry Hill and Cape May.
"She was one of the top models in Philly," daughter Tanice Fitzpatrick said. "She did shows on the runway at the Barclay Hotel, and he was working at the sign company. They were quite a pair."
"We had fun because we would meet for dinner in Philadelphia after work," Janice Trucksess said. "We used to go to Victor's Café in South Philadelphia. They always had opera playing full blast."
He loved spending summers in Cape May and threw himself into the life there. He was commodore of the Corinthian Yacht Club, a member of the Beach Club of Cape May and the Cape May Tennis Club, and an enthusiastic fisherman and boater. He also enjoyed playing golf.
The family owned a summer home facing Cape May Harbor. In 1995, it was deeded to the New Jersey Audubon Society and renovated to become an environmental education center.
The Trucksess Welcome Center has a gallery with exhibits from local artists, a nature store, and a second-story viewing deck and a third-story viewing tower, both for bird watchers "We even have loaner binoculars that you can use while on the deck," the society wrote online.
When not working, Mr. Trucksess liked to go where his curiosity beckoned. "He loved to explore and travel the world," his daughter said. The family went as far as Kenya, and enjoyed annual sailing excursions after Christmas in the British Virgin Islands.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by daughters Elizabeth Teegen Trucksess and Kristen Trucksess; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at noon on Sunday, March 11, in the auditorium at Medford Leas, 1 Medford Leas Way, Medford. Interment is private.
Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105 or via www.stjude.org/memorialgifts.