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Leonard J. Derda: a tribute to a friend.

He always began our conversations on topics much larger than the woodworking industry: the fall of Communism, international currencies, American politics, etc. Leonard J. Derda was a man in touch with current events on a global basis. On my last visit to his off ice he explained in great detail his personal impressions of post-Communist Poland -- based on a recent visit he had made.

He was well traveled and took pride in his understanding of the big picture. Yet, as one of modern woodworking's true pioneers, Len never strayed too far from the topics near and dear to his heart -- the industry and his family.

The son of Polish immigrants, Len served his country in World War 11 in the U.S. Army. During the war he was stationed in Italy and it was there that he met his wife Amalia Josephine. After the war, Len launched Derda Inc., a custom cabinet and commercial fixtures manufacturing business in Niles, Mich.

As a cabinetmaker, Len was always looking for better machines and methods. Through the years, Len bought specialized equipment to perform tasks such as profile and contour sanding. Perhaps it was his interest in the big picture that led him to Europe, particularly Italy, where he discovered some unique lines of equipment that were not made in this country. Then, in 1980 the company began to share its expertise with other woodworking concerns when it decided to market the specialized machine lines that Len discovered in Italy. Today, Derda Inc. sells several lines of Italian woodworking equipment. Len's son, John C. Derda, is the company president and vice president of the Woodworking Machinery Importers Assn.

It is a tragic irony, but somehow not surprising, that Len Derda spent the last day of his life at the IWF show last month. His remarkable energy, despite an ongoing battle with cancer, made it impossible to keep Len away from IWF. I saw him working his booth with the enthusiasm and vigor of a man half his age.

Throughout his illness he maintained a positive attitude that was emblematic of his courage and spirit.

Mr. Derda will be missed by his four children and 10 grandchildren, many of whom are involved in the family business. Our condolences go out to the family.

Len Derda was like family to many members of the staff of WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS and I speak for them in saying that we feel a great loss, Somehow, for me, IWF will never be the same.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:pioneer in the woodworking industry
Author:Urban, Harry
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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