Louis G. Malissa, 93, of Rydal, an executive who married into a fledgling ventilation-equipment business and helped build it into an international corporation, died of complications from a fall Sunday, July 23, at Rydal Park, a senior community.
Mr. Malissa was a giant of a man. At 6-feet-6 inches, he could be seen in any crowd, and his great height, as well as his ambition and easy way with people, fueled his success.
“He was a gentleman of towering presence as well as a great influence,” said his daughter, Phyllis Malissa Finkelstein.
Mr. Malissa came from humble beginnings in Logan. He was the third of four children born to Julius and Nettie Malissa. He graduated from Olney High School, where he was a basketball star.
After high school, he served in the Army during World War II in the 148th Armored Signal Company, part of the 8th Armored Division. He fought in France and Belgium and was present in the Ardennes at the Battle of the Bulge, according to his military record. His specialty was administrative work, although he qualified to operate a rifle. He was awarded the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal.
Once his unit returned to Fort Dix, N.J., he tried his hand at writing for the base’s newsletter. “He loved it,” and wanted to be a journalist, said his daughter. He was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant in March 1946.
But journalism was to fall by the wayside. While fresh out of the Army, Mr. Malissa happened to meet Irma Silver on a street corner in Philadelphia. Their mutual attraction was obvious. “She was taken with his height, his handsomeness, and his sparkling wit,” Finkelstein said. The couple married in 1946 and moved to Jenkintown where they started a family.
That same year, with a child on the way, Mr. Malissa went to work for the Samuel Silver family at Penn Ventilator Co., Inc. Silver was Mr. Malissa’s father-in-law. The firm manufactured and sold components for the ventilation side of the HVAC industry, as well as ventilators, blowers, and spare parts.
The company had plants at four locations in Philadelphia. Under Mr. Malissa’s tenure, Penn Ventilator established factories in Quebec, Texas, North Carolina, and Kentucky and developed an international customer base.
Mr. Malissa rose from national sales director to become the CEO and chairman of the board. He used his position as a corporate executive to provide jobs for many boyhood friends, as well as family members, his daughter said. In 1997, after the company was sold and its name changed to the Penn Ventilation Companies, he retired.
He served the industry as a past president of the Air Movement and Control Association, a national trade organization that sets the standards for HVAC equipment, including the speed and efficiency of fans.
He and his wife sold their home in 2011 and moved to Rydal Park.
Mr. Malissa enjoyed spending winters in West Palm Beach, Fla. He volunteered to organize social activities in his retirement community, Land of the Presidents. He also loved writing and editing material for the Melrose Country Club and his B’nai Brith Lodge, and organizing events for his pinochle-playing friends.
He was a longtime member of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, and a 32nd Degree Mason.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by a son, Dean; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday July, 25, at Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks, 310 2nd St. Pike, Southampton. Interment will follow in Montefiore Cemetery, Jenkintown.
Donations may be made to the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, 1425 Horsham Rd., North Wales.