September 28, 2011 12:31:00 PM
John Bell, Severstal executive vice president and manager of operations, was remembered Tuesday for both his passion to the steelmaking industry and his dedication to his colleagues during his tenure at the company.
Bell passed away Sept. 24 due to cancer. His replacement has not yet been named.
Bell had worked at Severstal's Columbus facility since April 2006 and briefly served as interim chief executive officer earlier this year after CEO James Hrusovsky accepted a new position as CEO of Essar Steel Algoma Inc. in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.
Bell's presence will be missed among his fellow employees, many of whom looked up to him as both a mentor and a father figure, according to a statement issued by Severstal Chief Executive Officer Sergei Kuznetsov. He was known for his willing ear and selfless attitude, "always (putting) other people's needs ahead of his own."
He loved everything about steelmaking, and he was a passionate advocate for Severstal, Columbus Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins said Tuesday afternoon.
When Bell first arrived in town, he and Higgins were standing on a downtown sidewalk, waiting for a traffic light to change as they headed to dinner. Severstal had not yet been built, and Higgins expressed his hopes that the company's sales executives would find a ready market for steel.
"(Bell) said, 'Selling the steel, son, it's not going to be a problem; this steel's going to sell itself,'" Higgins recalled. "You know, I think at the end of the day, he was right."
Higgins said Bell will be "sorely missed" at the plant, adding: "He was a prince of a man -- a steelmaker's steelmaker."
Bell, a native of New York, obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees in metallurgical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
He began his career at J&L Steel's Graham Research Center as a senior research engineer before taking over as chief steel plant metallurgist at McLouth Steel in Michigan in 1973. In 1982, he joined National Steel's Granite City Works as manager of continuous casting, and then joined Nucor-Yamato as a melt shop manager. In 1995, he took over as a melt shop manager for Nucor-Berkley. By 2004, he was general manager of steelmaking technologies at Nucor, a position he held until coming to Columbus two years later.
"John's leadership, dedication and experience over the past five years have proven to be invaluable to the start-up and continuing operations at Severstal Columbus, formerly known as SeverCorr," Kuznetsov wrote Monday in a memo to Severstal North America employees.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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