Ira Kaplan, a longtime member of the foodservice community, passed away on Nov. 18. He was 72 years old.
Kaplan held a variety of leadership positions in the foodservice equipment industry, including 36 years at Serv-O-Lift Eastern Corporation, where he started on the shop floor before becoming an estimator, vice president of sales and marketing and eventually president.
In 2002 he formed Aalex Corporation, a consulting firm working with a variety of foodservice equipment manufacturers, where he served as president and director of thought. In 2005 Kaplan started Irinox USA,
a manufacturer of blast chillers where he served as president until last year.
In addition, Kaplan was a longtime member of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers. He served on the association’s board of directors from 1982-85 before being elevated to officer roles including secretary (1986), vice president (1988) and president (1989). In addition, Kaplan served as chair of The NAFEM Show in 1991. In 1997 Kaplan received the William W. Carpenter Award, NAFEM’s highest honor, and the association’s Doctorate of Foodservice Award.
He was also very active in countless industry associations, including the FCSI; FEDA; SHFM, which recognized him with awards for ethics and leadership and MAFSI, which honored him with its Market Mover Award. He also received an honorary doctorate from Johnson and Wales University and the UPS Distinguished Service Award from the Food Chain Hunger Relief Organization.
Kaplan held plenty of educational sessions for the foodservice industry and was considered an educator, trainer and mentor to many in the foodservice industry. He also sat on numerous boards of directors including the hunger relief organizations America’s Second Harvest and the Taste of the NFL, as well was the New England Sinai Hospital and Rehabilitation Center. Kaplan was also a longtime member of the Boston Epicurean Club.
He was known for his passion for the foodservice industry and its people. Kaplan had a well-crafted reputation for bringing people together, too. His passion was on full display when Kaplan introduced his longtime friend Ken Gill, recipient of FE&S’ 2015 Hall of Fame Award.
“His desire to make connections and facilitate 'everything' is legendary. His mind was always searching, questioning, planning, strategizing and looking for the hidden solutions that no one else could even conceive of,” said his daughter Shari Kaplan, who followed her father’s footsteps into the foodservice equipment industry and now works for Eagle Group. “He delighted in catching people unawares, to make them think creatively. Everyone he encountered benefitted from Professor Ira's assignments and expectations. He pushed all of us, especially me, to be the best version of ourselves, whether in a personal realm or in a business environment.”
Kaplan earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and master’s degrees from Johnson & Wales University and Anna Maria College.
He is survived by his wife Barbara and daughters Shari and Stephanie, granddaughters Ava and Alexandra and numerous other family and friends. Before he passed, Kaplan penned his own obituary, which can be seen in the Boston Globe.