In Memoriam: Phil Carney

Phil Carney, formerly of supplier QuickPoint, passed away on April 11, 2021. He was 81.

Carney spent more than 25 years in the promotional products industry before retiring in 2001. Always one to give freely of his time, Carney was tapped to provide the on-camera introduction to PPAI’s 100th anniversary celebration video in 2003. “I was but one of thousands of volunteers who served on committees, task forces and our board, taught seminars, and shared time and expertise in many other ways. It’s my pleasure now to dedicate this centennial celebration to the tireless volunteers who have helped drive the success of PPAI,” he said, in the clip filmed at PPAI headquarters in Irving, Texas.

Carney came from humble beginnings in Indian Mound, Tennessee, and was the son of Everett and Milbrey Carney. The family moved to University City, Missouri, in the early 1940s, where Carney attended Mercy High School and played football, basketball and baseball. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a Morse code operator in Germany. Upon returning home from Germany, he met his bride-to-be, Mary Ann. He graduated from St. Louis University with a degree in business.

His creativity, love of people and keen communications skills led him to a long and successful industry career. A sought-after motivational speaker inside and outside the industry, he traveled frequently to shows and events to teach educational sessions. During his travels, he always thanked service personnel with promotional products. He was also known for inspirational quotes, including one of his favorites, “May your butterflies always fly in formation.”

Carney served on the PPAI Board of Directors from 2000-2002 and also was board liaison to the Government Relations Committee, Awards Committee and Suppliers Committee. He was named a PPAI Fellow in 2016.

“I had the honor of knowing Phil for many years,” says Wendy Franklin, MAS, of Geiger. “He was a wonderful teacher/mentor/storyteller. He was also the consummate salesman and loved people, which is why he was so good at his job and beloved by so many. Phil was passionate about our industry and would sing our praises to any and all who would listen. One of his favorite stories was that he’d get moved to first class when flying because he carried a stash of pens that said ‘I Love Flight Attendants’ and give them out when he boarded. Phil was an icon and those of us who had the honor of knowing him are better for it. He will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Long-time friend Tom Carpenter, MAS, national account manager at Fey Promo, says, “One of my fondest memories of working with Phil was at a MIPPA luncheon in Detroit. Members sat at roundtables during a luncheon where suppliers rotated in for a quick presentation of their line followed by the monthly association business and networking. Phil was in the middle of one of his most popular case studies on how his business card letter opener had landed him another first-class upgrade on his most recent flight. Then he stopped for a minute and said, ‘I want to ask you a question. Do you like the amount of sales you have?’ to which the crowd said 'no' and shook their heads. Phil looked at them and said, ‘Then what are you doing about that? We give you great ideas and all you have to do is go show them to your customers and they will buy them. If you want more sales, get up and go get them. This is my last trip as I am about to retire, but you are in good hands with those who are still here. And with that, I’ll hand it off to Tom Carpenter with Worldwide Line. Tom take it away ...’ The crowd roared with applause and gave him a standing ovation. I couldn't help but smile and laugh, realizing I had witnessed the end of an era, not a legacy but only an era. Rest well, Phil.”

During his early years in the industry, Walter Kurt, owner of distributor Three K Consultants, Inc., remembers Carney fondly. “[He] always wore a smile and had a great sense of humor. I saw him often at tabletop shows or room-to-room shows. He was always eager to lend a hand to those of us who didn't have decades of experience in the promotional products field. He knew his product and knew it well. State-of-the-art acrylic mugs with a multicolor imprint and the business card letter opener … products that stand the test of time. A gracious gentleman who will be sorely missed.”

Longtime friend Scott Nussinow, MAS, EVP of Artwork Services USA, remembers Carney as a charmer and a funny, lovable teddy bear of a guy. “We loved to be in the presence of his infectious laugh and his quick wit. His ability to tell colorfully entertaining stories was legendary. And yeah, he made us laugh and made us smile—though most memorably, he made us feel special.”

Another good friend and colleague, Paula Gossett, MAS, senior account executive at Geiger, says, “Phil was one of the first people I met when I came into this industry. Back in those days, women in sales were a minority and many of the older guys treated us as ‘little ladies.’ Phil was different. He shared his knowledge freely and without judgement. He sincerely wanted those of us he mentored to succeed. Thank you, Phil. You are missed already. I know I have another guardian angel looking down at me when I have a business decision to make.”

Lisa Bibb, MAS, executive director of the Virginia Promotional Products Association and the Georgia Association Promotional Products Professionals, says, “I met Phil not long after I got into this industry, and I was in awe of how he could hold a room as he told a story, his passion for the industry and how he never met a stranger. I hope that all those tales of airline upgrades by gifting a Zippy letter opener to the ticket agents are true, they were so entertaining! Phil was a genuinely good-hearted man, ready to help whoever, whenever.”

Carney was also a devoted father and loved to pass along his love of sports and the importance of teamwork by coaching all of his children’s many baseball, softball, basketball and soccer teams. He is perhaps best remembered for his love of laughter, sense of humor, commitment to family and friends, and deep devotion to God.

He is survived by his wife of 55 years Mary Ann Carney (Dwyer); daughters Lynn (Rich) Blosser and Mary (Matt) Combs; sons Jack (Maggie) Carney, Mike (Tracy) Carney and Kevin Carney; grandchildren Gabrielle, Abigail, Mason, Evan, Phillip, Beau, Madison, Luci, Peter, Everett and Timothy; and siblings Kenneth, Jerry and Larry Carney. He was preceded in death by two sisters, Virginia and Vernice.

Visitation is planned at the Family Center at Schrader Funeral Home and Crematory, 14960 Manchester Road, Ballwin, Missouri, 63011 on April 15 from 4-8 pm. Friends may sign the family’s online guestbook at Schrader.com. A funeral mass will be held at Holy Infant Catholic Church, 627 Dennison Dr., Ballwin, Missouri, 63021 on April 16 at noon with private interment at Holy Cross Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Vincent DePaul Society at Holy Infant.

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Comments (5)
Arthur Mickelson
April 20, 2021
A wonderful man will be missed.
Bob Waldorf
April 16, 2021
Phil was a great supplier to Idea Man. We loved having him at our sales meetings. He had a big personality and he was always ready to help!
Tommy Flanagan
April 16, 2021
Phil was a inspiration to me when I started back in the late 80's. Phil will be missed greatly! Even though I haven't seen him or spoke to him in many years, I fell his presence and smile today as if I spoke to him yesterday. He instilled happiness to whom ever he had a chance to meet. He was an educator and a card. He knew had to make people laugh, but he always made a point to make you smile. What a great person! My thoughts and prayers are with you Phil and your family. God Bless!
Ben Prasad
April 15, 2021
I'm another that has been in the Promo world for over 30 years and Phil was key early in my early years just motivating and encouraging as a fellow supplier (even competitor at times in products). He has been missed for the years he's been retired and more so now with his passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
Patricia Slygh
April 15, 2021
May Phil RIH. Prayers for he and all his family. I remember meeting Phil at the ASI Chicago Shows. Patricia
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