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The Class of 2013

December 12, 2012 By    

A recently retired president and CEO of a retailing giant; a leader in public affairs; and an engine enthusiast who helped pave the way for propane as an engine fuel are among six inductees into the 2013 class of the LP Gas Hall of Fame.

LP Gas launched the hall of fame last year to preserve the legacy of propane industry leaders. An induction event sponsored by Suburban Propane will honor the class April 12, 2013, at The Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, prior to the NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo.

For ticket or sponsor information, contact LP Gas Publisher Brian Kanaba at or 216-706-3745. We are proud to present the Class of 2013:

Eugene V.N. Bissell, AmeriGas

The former president and CEO of the nation’s largest propane retail operation was nominated for the hall of fame in 2011 and 2012. He was selected for induction in the same year as his retirement and one year after winning the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Distinguished Service Award. Bissell said goodbye to AmeriGas in March after leading the company since 2000 and having spent more than 20 years there. He closed his career after helping to maneuver AmeriGas through its blockbuster, $2.9 billion acquisition of Heritage Propane. As NPGA chairman from 2002-03, Bissell helped the association refine its role and become a more effective advocate for the industry. He has been a trusted, ethical leader for his company and the propane industry, rallying others to volunteer their time.

Zane Chastain, LP Gas Magazine

The longtime publisher and editor of the propane trade publication was nominated this year, known as someone who brought the industry closer through his work with the magazine and by launching a propane industry golf outing that has spanned nearly 30 years. Chastain served as editor of the magazine for about 23 years, from 1974-1997. He remained publisher from 1997 through the middle of 2000, and then was honored as publisher emeritus into 2005. Chastain envisioned the golf outing, which he started in October 1985, as a place for propane retailers and suppliers to convene in a relaxed atmosphere. It also drew an industry following that crossed international borders, from Canada and Mexico. The magazine, he would say, was “where the industry goes to meet itself.”

William C. Hill, Pargas (posthumous)

The Maryland company’s former president and chairman of the board led the resistance against government allocation and price regulations on the propane industry. In 1973, he created and chaired the National Committee on Propane Allocation and Price Regulations, which functioned until his death in 1979 at age 55. His efforts were said to have eased burdens on propane marketers, producers, transporters and wholesalers. Hill was an attorney and had been legal counsel for Pargas before building the small, local marketer into a powerhouse company, which was acquired by Suburban Propane in 1985. He was known for fair, innovative and creative ideas. NPGA honored Hill with its Distinguished Service Award, and continues to honor him with its Bill Hill Memorial Award, which goes to a propane industry leader in public affairs. Hill was nominated for the hall of fame this year.

Herbert V. Hills, Imperial Machine Products Co. (IMPCO) (posthumous)

Nominated last year, Hills helped to validate propane as an engine fuel when he founded IMPCO in 1958 with the profits from his machining company. The first president of the California company, Hills worked with his friend, Richard Baverstock, to develop the first diaphragm air valve carburetion systems for propane-powered engines. Hills was a technical sales representative for Century Carburetion prior to starting his own company. He and a group of colleagues, including Donald Bass, Ak Miller and Baverstock, were passionate about developing engines that could power cars and boats with more speed and energy efficiency. Hills died in 2000 at the age of 90.The global, public company is now known as IMPCO Technologies, based in Santa Ana, Calif.

Walter H. Johnson, National LP-Gas Association

Johnson teamed with Wilbur Walls and Emerson Thomas to write the first edition (1986) of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 58 handbook, the industry benchmark for safe LP gas storage, handling, transportation and use. As the vice president of technical services for the National LP-Gas Association, which later became NPGA, he created a safety handbook and virtually all of the original safety bulletins for the industry. Johnson served as a staff liaison on the technology and standards, and safety committees, as well as on the NFPA 58 committee, before his retirement in the mid-1980s, culminating about 30 years with the association. Johnson was a Navy pilot in World War II before finishing his college education in chemical engineering at Northwestern and going to work for several major oil companies. He is a winner of NPGA’s Distinguished Service Award and was nominated for the hall this year. He turns 92 this month.

Robert B. Nicholson, Eastern Propane Corp.

Nicholson was just 10 years old when his father, Robert Nicholson Sr., founded the New Jersey propane retail operation nearly 75 years ago. Today, Nicholson is the company’s chairman, having built a long résumé, starting in 1954 when he partnered with his father to grow the business. Nicholson, 84, has been recognized recently for his work in spearheading the propane industry’s centennial celebration. He’s also worked to preserve and promote the industry’s history through the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pa. Nicholson was instrumental in efforts to develop seam-welded stainless steel data plates on ASME propane containers. He worked to raise the performance standards for container manufacturers on propane tank coatings. And he authored the industry’s first Good Samaritan law. Nicholson is a longtime NPGA board member; the association honored him with a chairman’s citation in 2008 for his many contributions to the industry.

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik was a senior editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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