CLEVELAND (Jan. 2, 2007) — Joseph Russo, a former president of Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. and member of the Tire Industry Hall of Fame, died Dec. 30 after a short illness. He was 79.
Mr. Russo served as president of Hercules from 1971 to 1987 and as chairman from 1987 to 1989, the company said. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 1986 as president of Hercules. Mr. Russo, a World War II Army veteran, also was past president of the former National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, the Ohio Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association and the Greater Cleveland Tire Dealers Association.
Mr. Russo began his career in the tire industry in 1947 as a partner in a then-B.F. Goodrich Co. tire store in Cleveland with his uncle, his family said. In 1952, he founded Almira Tire & Supply in Cleveland with his brother Charles. Almira Tire sold new and retread tires with retail and wholesale customers.
In 1962, Mr. Russo established Bell Tire Co., also in Cleveland, and became a regional distributor for Hercules, his family said, to capitalize on the growing popularity of private brands. The business was closed in 1999.
His family said Mr. Russo, through his work in the industry association, was driven to help small business owners. The family quoted a letter Mr. Russo received when he retired from Hercules, which said, “…Your leadership of Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. has made it possible for many small and medium-size tire dealers and retreaders to not only survive in their businesses but to prosper and grow.”
David Russo, Mr. Russo's son, said his father helped create both the Ohio and Cleveland tire dealers associations to help other business owners and to have a voice in local government.
“My dad always said, 'It pays to participate,'” David Russo said. “That was his famous saying.”
David Russo, who worked at Bell Tire with his father, is vice president of sales and sales manager for National Tire & Rubber Co., a commercial dealership.
Mr. Russo is survived by his wife Geraldine, children Christine Dorenkott, Barbara Enos and David Russo, grandchildren and other family members.