LP Gas Hall of Fame profile: Don Schultz

April 18, 2023 By    

The 2023 LP Gas Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony will take place April 22 at the Omni Nashville Hotel in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Inductees are Steve Ahrens (Missouri Propane Gas Association), Tom Jaenicke (ATomiK Creative Solutions), Billy Prim (Blue Rhino) and Don Schultz (Schultz Gas Service). Get more information here.

Headshot: Don Schultz


By the time siblings Tom Schultz and Terri Marsee began working full time at Schultz Gas Service in the 1970s, the propane market on the south side of Chicago had taken on an industrial feel.

But it wasn’t always that way.

“Lansing at one time was fairly rural, and that was where the majority of the customers were,” Schultz says of the village in Illinois. “There were a lot of farms and, of course, no natural gas lines, so that domestic load was the primary source of their business. 

“As the natural gas lines started coming in and Lansing became more of a suburban area, it really cut into what they were doing.”

Don Schultz, their father, helped to change the company’s market focus from rural and residential to industrial – and not look back. Schultz Gas Service, a propane distributor for Phillips Petroleum Co., became a supplier of propane to industrial accounts and other applications, including steel mills, manufacturing plants and construction companies.

“He really kickstarted it and got it going,” Tom Schultz says of the former home appliance business that his grandparents started in 1937. “He was a very unique individual. He just had the drive and the passion for what he was doing and just really went after it.”

In reshaping Schultz Gas Service, Don Schultz developed delivery efficiency methods that benefited the company and its customers – and still are enjoyed in the propane industry today. His efforts on the research and development side of the industry, combined with his passion to promote safety and training at his company and throughout the industry, have led to his 2023 induction into the LP Gas Hall of Fame.

Hitting the mark

Photo of Don Schultz and the safe-fill gun he designed

Don Schultz, left, designed a “safe-fill gun” to fill forklift cylinders at the customer’s location. He’s shown here with his dad, George. (Photo: LP Gas archives)

With the help of Phillips Petroleum Co., Schultz Gas Service pursued the industrial load, which meant forklift cylinder gallons.

Meanwhile, Don Schultz, a native of Lansing who served in the Marines, was always thinking ahead and asking, “What can we do to make this better or more efficient?”

“When you’re exchanging cylinders, you’ve got to have so many at the customer site and so many at your plant to replace those when they go empty,” Tom Schultz says. “And sometimes those cylinders aren’t all completely empty.”

Don Schultz found a solution. Tom Schultz says his father’s plans and prototype still exist today – of a “safe-fill gun” that he pioneered and designed with RegO engineers for the filling of forklift cylinders at the customer’s location. After three years of modifications and testing, Tom Schultz adds, the product became a reality.

An article in the November 1964 issue of LP Gas – under the headline “Lift truck filling ‘gun’ hits mark” – describes the unit as a “grease gun in its design” that connects to the filler valve in one-and-a-half turns. The driver can safely connect, fill and disconnect a lift truck cylinder in 25 seconds, providing savings for the customer and profit for the company, according to the article.

“We’re selling gas again, not just transporting cylinders,” Don Schultz says in the article. “The driver fills all empty bottles and then moves on to the next stop within a few minutes.”

Photo of Don Schultz filling a forklift cylinder

Tom Schultz calls the safe-fill gun his father’s greatest achievement “because that really revolutionized how things were done.” (Photo: LP Gas archives)

Tom Schultz calls the safe-fill gun his father’s greatest achievement “because that really revolutionized how things were done.”

“The customer got a metered ticket showing the gallons that were actually put in those cylinders,” he elaborates. “It worked for us, and it worked for the customer.”

LP Gas Hall of Famer Bob Myers, who was active in the industry with Don Schultz during the 1960s and ’70s, says the Illinois retailer’s innovations paved the way for forklift market growth.

But there was more. Under Don Schultz’s leadership, Schultz Gas Service thrived in the industrial market and in other applications.

According to Myers, Schultz showed the city of Chicago how to use propane to melt the snow from their transit routes and developed a scarifying machine that allowed asphalt to be heated and picked up mechanically when replacing or repairing street surfaces.

Schultz Gas Service also serviced the railroads with propane-fueled switch heaters, to keep the switches from freezing, and Tom Schultz recalls how the company used burners to thaw the ground and help contractors with their underground work.

The company also fueled temporary heaters for construction companies and converted a fleet of school buses into one of its largest customers. Don Schultz held open houses in the 1970s to promote the use of “clean air propane” as a motor fuel and offered classes to teach the correct installation procedures of propane vehicle systems.

Tom Schultz says his father also was advanced in his use of computerization.

Career built around safety

While Don Schultz helped to develop efficiencies and growth for his business and that of the propane industry, his passion for safety and the steps he took to promote it are remembered by his family and recognized by the industry.

In fact, in nominating him for the Distinguished Service Award, Emerson Thomas, also an LP Gas Hall of Famer, noted some of Schultz’s “many contributions.” This included Schultz’s presentation of the first concept of emergency shutoff valves at a National Fire Protection Association conference; his testimony before Senate hearings on safety aspects of the LP gas industry; safety seminars that he conducted for industrial and fire groups; and his response to emergencies “at all hours.”

“He has given untiringly of his time, effort and equipment to develop and promote safety,” Thomas writes in the nomination for the National LP-Gas Association (NLPGA) award, which Schultz won in 1983. It honored him particularly for “his leadership and guidance in achieving good industry safe practices and in the development of new technologies.”

Schultz carried his safety messages across the industry in his many volunteer roles with the state and national LP gas associations, including as chair of the NLPGA Safety Committee. He also dedicated his 1978-79 term as president of the NLPGA to safety, as he and his wife, Rosalie, traveled across the country.

“Lack of proper training is the No. 1 safety problem. Prevention begins with education,” was the message Schultz shared with the industry, according to his family.

Photo of Schultz family

Terri Marsee describes her dad, left, as the family’s “rock.” (Photo: Don Schultz family)

Tom Schultz recalls the repetitive nature of his father’s safety messages to company employees “so that it stayed fresh in everybody’s mind.”

“At those meetings, anybody could say anything they wanted,” he says, “as far as, if you have concerns about this or about that. He was very open about that. ‘If we’ve got an issue, let’s resolve it. Let’s take care of it before it becomes a problem.’”

Tom Schultz and Terri Marsee say their father was the “heart and soul” of everything he did. He was a one-plant independent marketer who, Myers believes, rightfully saw himself as representing a basic building block of a national association and industry. His voice was one of reason, inclusivity and friendliness, and he helped to create a positive image for the industry – and for his family.

“He was our rock,” Marsee says. “You just could go to him, and he always helped us. He educated us. We learned so much with him. Everything we do, to this day, we always think of him: What would he do?”

Don Schultz sold Schultz Gas Service to Petrolane in 1989 and entered other business ventures. He died in 2009 at the age of 77.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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