jack-nadel-memoriamJack Nadel, businessman, industry leader, World War II hero, philanthropist, speaker and award-winning writer, passed away of natural causes at his home in Santa Barbara, California, on Saturday, just days before his 93rd birthday.

A pioneer in the promotional products industry, Nadel started distributor Jack Nadel International with his late wife, Elly, in Los Angeles in 1953 after several years in the import/export business.

During his more than 70 years in business, Nadel founded, acquired and operated more than a dozen companies that produced hundreds of new products and thousands of jobs.

During the Reagan administration, he was appointed as an official delegate to a trade mission to Japan working toward the goal of free trade around the world. In the 1960s he was elected to the PPAI board of directors and served as chair in 1970-71. In 1988 PPAI honored him with induction into the PPAI Hall of Fame.

“Jack Nadel was a promotional products industry icon,” says Don Edwards, CAS, principal of Don Edwards Marketing, who served as PPAI board chair in the late ’70s. “Jack was a true leader and genuine mover and shaker. His accomplishments were legendary. He was way ahead of the curve of everyone else—that was part of his success. He was a visionary like no one had ever seen in this industry. I am honored to have known him.”

Mark Gilman, CAS, chairman of Gill Studios, Inc., another contemporary and former PPAI board chair, credits Nadel with pushing the limits of what business leaders at the time thought was possible for the promotional products industry.

“He was full of energy and was a truly dynamic individual,” says Gilman. “He pushed the whole industry to raise the bar and be more confident than we were. We were worried about getting 500 truck signs made and he was working with major accounts and big companies. He told us we have to sell concepts, programs and ideas. He pushed it hard and we all thought, ‘He has to be right because he’s so successful.’”

In the process, Gilman says, Nadel was not only trying to make his own company as successful as possible, he was also trying to build a dynamic industry. “His company was so greatly respected among suppliers that it was an honor to be invited to present to his company,” he remembers. “If you went to his sales meetings, you had to be a top-flight company. Jack was the most outstanding leader of a great group of people in Southern California in the 1970s and ’80s.”

Craig Nadel, CAS, CEO of Jack Nadel International, remembers his uncle as a very principled visionary. “Jack Nadel founded this company, and many others too,” he says, “and while he retired long ago, the DNA of his company runs through us still. He was ahead of his time in many ways and always pushed us to be a creative and service-oriented company. He was also a man of very high integrity and we strive to live to those values each day.”

Always an achiever and a giver, Nadel spent the past decade lecturing at colleges and universities, writing books, mentoring future business leaders and, with his wife, Julie, supporting a wide variety of philanthropic efforts in Santa Barbara through the Nadel Foundation. His last book, The Evolution of an Entrepreneur, was an award-winning e-book. He also won the inaugural Entrepreneurial Lifetime Notable Achievement Award from Santa Barbara City College.

In a 2013 interview in PPB magazine, Nadel was asked how he wanted to be remembered. “I would like to be remembered as an innovator, original thinker and as a doer,” he said. “I’ve always been very positive and thought out-of-the-box but had an outrageous percentage of success. I would say I want to be remembered as originating, innovating and succeeding.”

He saw his books as a way to pass on his knowledge to the next generation. “My goal now at 89 is to pass it on through this book, the internet, blogs—whatever means I have to pass on the word to a better life,” he said in the PPB article. “If you look at the base of a great number of problems we face in the world today, it always comes back to the economy. People with full stomachs who are doing what they like to do are happier than those with empty stomachs. The spirit of entrepreneurship is one of the major solutions to our economic problems. The individual worker, small-business man or woman can no longer count on what used to be a staple … the relationship of the individual to the corporation has diminished tremendously. One of our greatest weapons is the American entrepreneur.”

Nadel is survived by his wife, Julie, children Judie and Jeff, stepchildren Shari and Hillary, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are planned for Thursday, September 29 at 11:30 am at Santa Barbara Cemetery in Santa Barbara, California.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts in his memory be sent to Sansum Clinic (P.O. Box 1200, Santa Barbara, California 93102, Attn: Dru A. Hartley). These gifts will be directed to the Nadel Prescription Navigator Program.