William ‘Bill’ Carr Prior was born on February 14, 1931 to Lina and Emery Prior in Cleveland, OH, joining brothers Dan, Peter and Emery. He attended Hawken School, Proctor Academy and Case Institute of Technology, where he graduated in 1953 with a BS Degree in mechanical engineering and business. Prior served in the US Army Quartermaster Corps, achieving the rank of Specialist 4th Class. He left the world quietly and peacefully, surrounded by love, on February 28. A remembrance celebration of Prior’s life took place March 6 in Chagrin Falls, OH.
A previous director of the WQA, Prior also served on the Ethics, International and Strategic Planning Committees. He was a founder and charter member of the World Assembly Division of WQA, including Past Chairman of the Division’s Executive Committee and continuing on the Division’s Advisory Board of Directors. Prior was Chairman of the Small Systems Committee and a long-time member of the AWWA/WQA Liaison Committee.
For his long and valued commitment to the industry, he was inducted into the WQA Hall of Fame in 1991 and received the Lifetime Membership Award in 1999.
Prior served as Director of the Greater Bay Area Foundation, The Great Lakes Basin Conservancy and the Pointe au Baril Islander’s Association. For the Georgian Bay Association, he served on various committees and consulted on water quality issues. Prior was also a past trustee of Proctor Academy, a private high school in Andover, NH.
Synonymous with quality and integrity, Prior gained global recognition through Kinetico, Incorporated, the company he co-founded with James Kewley in 1970. In 2006, the company was sold to Axel Johnson, Inc. but Prior remained until he officially retired in January 2009. Never content with inaction, especially when a problem needed to be solved, he changed focus to concentrate on new, emerging technologies.
Prior’s business, Tangent Company of Chagrin Falls, continued the early traditions he established before Kinetico’s launch.
Prior’s perseverance and indeed, his tenacity, have been noteworthy. Success, as he exemplified it, required commitment, the willingness to make mistakes and the courage to do the right thing. Such a work ethic garnered much praise from the water treatment industry. A giant amongst his peers, the practitioners and inventors who strive to make the world a better place through their personal and professional efforts, Prior was a star whose brightness will serve as a reminder that anything can be achieved, as long as giving up is not an option.
Said WC&P Publisher Kurt Peterson, “He was always very positive and a pleasant person to be around. When you had a conversation with Bill, you knew he was listening to you. It was as if you were the only person in the room at that moment. I never heard him say anything negative to or about anyone. Bill was the most positive person I’ve ever known and he will be missed by so many.”
Andrew Warnes, Product Line Manager-Faucets, Sloan Valve Company, worked with Prior from 1994 to 2000. He said, “Aside from my parents, I think Bill was one of the people who had the most influence upon me in life. He truly seemed to embrace the philosophy of always doing the right thing – even when doing the right thing was the hardest choice of all to make. Even during the times when I thought he was doing the wrong thing, it invariably turned out that he was right in the long run. All of us who had the pleasure of knowing and working with Bill knew that he had our backs and therefore, we always had his. Bill’s principles and philosophies have guided me throughout my life and for that, I will forever be thankful.”
James ‘Jim’ Bolton of Tangent Company offered his insights as well. “Bill and I met in the jungles of Peru 19 years ago and following a brief conversation on the side of a mountain, we ultimately developed a very close friendship and a long, loyal business relationship. Anyone who met Bill can relate to this. Bill simply loved people. He would spark up a conversation with anyone at any time. His charisma, wit and kindness resulted in instant friendships, many of which lasted his lifetime. It was this emphasis on people that underscored his business ethics. He believed in providing only the best products and treating his customers with the highest integrity. He was equally generous to his employees and suppliers. As President of Kinetico, Bill would wander around the company every Friday to randomly sit down and chat with his employees. People loved these impromptu visits with Bill, and he would remember minute details of everyone’s life. But he was also a nonconformist.
Ultimately, he was an engineer who loved to solve problems in very unique ways. Bill needed to live outside the box, he needed to push the envelope of our limitations, otherwise he would get bored. His business career from the 1950s to 2016 involved Bill’s creating new and edgy products, and wrapping successful businesses around them. After Bill sold Kinetico, he was free to tackle a question that had plagued him for decades. How can we condition or purify water, if there is no water to begin with? So Bill and I started Tangent Company in 2008 to address scarcity issues and to develop tomorrow’s technology for tomorrow’s problems. Beyond all this, Bill’s most unique attribute was his ability to see in others great potential. He was able to identify strengths and abilities in people, far beyond their own self-imposed limitations. Then Bill was able to encourage and empower others to strive for this potential, and with his unwavering confidence, people never wanted to disappoint him. Bill inspired those of us around him, to set our own internal expectations, far beyond our own self-imposed limits, and then through his confidence and support, we found ourselves achieving things we never thought imaginable. This was Bill’s Midas Touch, an attribute so rare that our language has not developed the vocabulary to properly describe it.”
“Bill’s passion was finding ways to help people and he was always the person you could count on to do just that,” said Sharon Peterson, wife of WC&P Founder Jerome Peterson and a long-time friend. “His excitement was contagious; he made you believe that anything was possible, that it just took the right attitude and the right tools to accomplish whatever you set out to do. At the WQA convention last year, Bill was so upbeat and enthusiastic about what he was doing. He always had something going on, something new to bring to the world. It saddens me to think about not seeing him at upcoming conventions, or hearing about his latest developments. But the legacy he created with Kinetico has assured that he will be remembered by the industry for a long time to come. Bill is a tough act to follow!”
Toby Thomas, Kinetico President and CEO, issued a statement, in which he outlined the most important and far-reaching impact Prior had on the company and its dealers. “Here are a few things that we learned from Bill: dream big, and then chase after it; don’t take yourself too seriously; you can move mountains if you have passion; never, ever give up – failure can be a blessing in disguise; being different is good; listen, really listen, to what others have to say and most importantly, everyone matters. If you didn’t get the chance to meet Bill, know that he infused his vision, tenacity and his true caring for others into Kinetico to make it what it is today. He lives on in how we innovate, help and treat one another. We will carry the torch forward by positively changing the lives of millions of people around the world – I know that is what he would most want us to do, and it is the best way we can honor Bill and his wonderful life. With a smile, let us all toast our once and forever visionary.”
Prior is survived by his wife, Carol; children George, Kerry, Leslie, Bruce and Tim; eight grandchildren and his brother Emery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, 3850 Chagrin River Road, Moreland Hills, OH 44022 (440) 528-4150; Rescue Village (Geauga Humane Society), 15463 Chillicothe Road, Novelty, OH 44072 (440) 338-4819 or a local charity, in his name.