Industry leader and former North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) president and CEO Bill Lee died Friday, September 29. Lee was a passionate supporter of the independent home improvement retail industry, serving the association for over 20 years before retiring in 2017.
Lee started his work with the association—then known as the National Retail Hardware Association or NRHA—as an outside marketing consultant for 12 years before starting as the association’s marketing director in 1996. During the early 1990s and late 2000s, NRHA launched its custom publishing department and catalog business under Lee’s guidance. In 2008, Lee took over as CEO and focused on making the association a more informative and valuable resource for members and the industry at large.
Lee’s focus on developing association programs was always to fulfill its mission: to help independent retailers become better and more profitable merchants.
“Bill was a passionate advocate for independent home improvement retailers and was instrumental in driving this association to serve the industry. Under his leadership, NHPA launched some of its most prominent and successful retail-facing programs,” says current NHPA president and CEO Bob Cutter. “Bill’s desire to help independent retailers run better and more profitable operations was sincere, and the impact he made as an advocate for the industry will be felt for years to come.”
Lee’s Ongoing Legacy
As a staunch advocate for developing the next generation of independent retailers, Lee was integral in developing the original version of the association’s product knowledge training course. Training has since become a critical pillar that the association provides the independent channel, today offering over 250 modules in basic training and additional advanced education programs including the Retail Management Certification Program and Foundations of Retail.
Lee’s legacy is not limited to home improvement retail in North America. In addition to serving as president and CEO of NRHA, Lee also served as general chairman of the International Hardware Association. Through his job, Lee and his wife Jane made many good friends within the hardware industry in the U.S. and throughout Europe.
Lee retired from the association in 2017 but remained involved in association and industry activities and programs. In his free time, he enjoyed cooking, painting, gardening, reading, boating, woodworking, bike riding and traveling in his free time. Lee was especially fond of going to their family cabin in the northern woods of Wisconsin. He even built a wooden fishing boat which took 11 years to finish to take to the cabin. Lee loved going on walks with his beloved dog Sophie. Spending time with his family was the most important thing to him in his life. He is survived by his loving wife, Jane Lee; son, Zach Lee; daughters, Amy (Tom) Marcum and Elizabeth (Joey) Lucich; brothers, Tom (Darla) Lee and Tony (Kathy) Lee; grandchildren, Brandon, Taylor Ann, Will, Henry and Taylor Nicole; and great-grandchildren, Kai, Lake and Barrie. In remembrance of Lee and his contributions to the industry, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society at cancer.org/givehope.