Bill Petrino was 19 when he got his first job in plastics. He was a laborer at a Mays Landing plant.
“He swept floors, emptied trash cans,” said his wife, Denise.
But by 35, Bill was president of a company, Jomar Injection Blow Molding, that’s based now in Egg Harbor Township. The company makes the machines that make plastic bottles.
And Bill, of Northfield, spent the next 30 years as Jomar’s president, until he died last month at age 65.
In his career, he traveled the world, turned customers into lifelong friends and enjoyed his three kids and seven grandchildren immensely.
But one thing he never did was go to college.
“He was really a self-taught man,” said Denise, who’s retired from her career as manager at Atlantic City and Linwood country clubs.
Bill’s path from laborer to president ran through training as a “process technician,” said Ron Gabriele, of Egg Harbor Township, Jomar’s global sales manager.
Early in his career, Bill would run his company’s machines and teach customers’ workers to run them.
He worked at a few local plastics companies, Jomar included, before he headed back to Jomar as an executive. Within months, he was boss.
He became an internationally respected expert in his field — a highly complex and competitive business with, predictably, “a pretty dry culture,” Gabriele added. “But Bill had a huge personality ... a combination of expertise and hilarity.”
He loved the travel end of the job, mastering the European rail system, finding the best restaurants, and definitely not the tourist spots — anywhere he did business and sharing his discoveries with his family.
“His favorite place in the world was Zurich, Switzerland,” said Denise, who went there often with Bill.
Their daughter, Dawnmarie Gabriele, Ron’s wife, also saw Zurich with her dad. She remembers his joy at sitting in his favorite seat at the elegant Hotel St. Gotthard, watching the beautiful people pass by.
“But he also loved to eat hot dogs ... with his grandkids climbing all over him,” his daughter added — often as he wore a special wolf-head hat he bought at a live-music festival in Bethlehem, Pa.
Bill was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer, seven years ago. He had two stem-cell transplants, and his cancer had been in remission for five years when it returned last July, with complications.
He died waiting for a suitable bone-marrow donor, despite his family’s efforts to find a matching donor with a local drive organized through the National Bone Marrow Registry.
It didn’t work in time for Bill, but his family still believes in the cause of bone-marrow donations. They still have their “team page” at bethematchfoundation.org/goto/ petrino.
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