R.L. `Dick' Fuller
MASSILLON, Ohio-R.L. ``Dick'' Fuller died June 19 in Massillon. He was 63.
Mr. Fuller founded Massillon-based Standards Testing Laboratories, a tire, wheel and component testing firm, in 1971. STL began as an independent laboratory with one roadwheel machine, operating out of a trailer. It now has more than 115 test positions and is the world's largest independent dynamic laboratory for testing tires, wheels and other components.
Mr. Fuller's career in the industry started with a job in his father's service station. He also enjoyed buying, fixing and selling cars, owning 25 cars before turning 18. He began racing after graduating from Hower High School in Akron and in 1964 led the national point championship of the Sports Car Club of America.
Mr. Fuller designed and built cars, one of which was for Cleveland financier L.O. ``Pete'' Young, who invited Mr. Fuller to drive and maintain his stable of formula race cars. Mr. Fuller later built and sold several cars of his own design.
Mr. Fuller is survived by his son Darrell, daughter Kim, stepson Rick, stepdaughter Sherri and their families.
Bill R. Wilks
ALBERTVILLE, Ala.-Bill R. Wilks, founder of Wilks Tire & Battery Service Inc., died Feb. 2 in Albertville. He was 79.
Mr. Wilks spent a half-century in the business after adding tires to an existing battery operation in 1952. Along with wife Sara, Mr. Wilks opened his first new location in 1977, as sons Shane and Craig got involved in the family business.
Wilks Tire & Battery, a Goodyear Gemini dealership, has since grown into the largest independent tire dealership in Alabama, with nine retail, two commercial and one wholesale location, along with a Next-Tred retread shop.
Mr. Wilks survived the crash of a B-24 Liberator in World War II. He was active in the VFW and other associations related to the military, along with the Albertville downtown urban renewal project and other local civic groups.
He is survived by sons Shane and Craig, and four grandchildren.
WASHINGTON, Pa.-Tom Byerly, a lifelong tire business veteran, died April 29 at his home in Washington. He was 45.
Mr. Byerly had been working as a medium and commercial truck tire salesman for Tire Centers L.L.C. in the Pittsburgh area.
Rob Brutt, president of the Tire Dealers Association of Western Pennsylvania, said Mr. Byerly had been in the tire business ``all his life.'' He worked for several years for TCI. Prior to that he ran his own business, Advance Tire.
``Tom was quite a regular visitor to my place and when things were not going so well for either of us, the last thing he would say was, `Remember, we picked this business,''' Mr. Brutt recalled. ``I am glad that I knew Tom Byerly and I am glad that I am a tire dealer.''
Mr. Byerly is survived by his wife Lynn and twin daughters Krissy and Kasey.
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Dohn Graham, a member of the Big O Tires Hall of Fame, died April 2. He was 72.
Mr. Graham enjoyed a decades-long career in the tire business, which culminated in his 1997 induction into the Big O Hall of Fame.
He began his career in an OK Tire and Rubber Welders (forerunner to Big O) store. In 1963, along with another eventual hall of famer, Guy Burgess, Mr. Graham broke away from OK and together began the Big O Tires group of Louisville.
Over the next two decades, he opened several Big O locations as his tire operations expanded.
According to Big O, he was ``instrumental in developing all of the advertising and marketing programs throughout the region and established the Big O brand as the major brand in Louisville, in part due to his flair for marketing and advertising.''
In 1980 he created his own credit company that was jointly owned by all dealers in the region. United Credit Corp. offered six months-same as cash to dealers during bad economic times.
Mr. Graham is survived by his wife Florella; a son and daughter; a brother and four grandchildren.