Eight Bells: Ed Palm

Published on April 25th, 2019

Ed Palm

Edward Bert Palm, Detroit industrialist, serial entrepreneur, championship sailor, consummate outdoorsman and lifelong athlete passed away on April 22, 2019, at the age of 75, surrounded by his family and close friends.

Ed’s passions straddled two worlds, manufacturing and sailboat racing, both of which he pursued with equal ferocity and both of which returned him success and honors.

His Spiralock vibration-proof screw thread revolutionized the aerospace industry and became a Harvard Business School case study; his historic Port Huron/Mackinac first overall aboard Equation, a powerful Farr 65, capped a lifetime of yachting competition and earned him a place in the Little Traverse Yacht Club Hall of Fame.

Ed was born in 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio to Bert and Harriet (Winburn) Palm. He grew up in the Cleveland suburb of South Euclid before moving with his family to Mentor Harbor where he developed an affinity for sailboats.

As a teenager, he raced a series of dinghies at the local and national levels, highlighted by competing with a Flying Dutchman in the 1964 Olympic trials. By the mid-1960s he opened Palm Sails, his own sail loft, in Painesville, Ohio.

In 1966 Ed married Patricia Dennis, and the following year, Ed decided to exchange Cleveland and sailmaking for Detroit and the machine tool industry. After several years as a sales representative with a strong record, Ed was hired to rebuild Detroit Tap and Tool, an established supplier of taps and gauges to the automotive industry.

Rather than rebuild, Ed took Detroit Tap and Tool through several re-identifications, paralleling the twists and turns of the auto industry from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Serendipitously in 1977, Ed was approached by an inventor who needed assistance developing a novel screw thread – one that, if manufacturing tolerances could be held, would solve a problem that plagued many industries; vibrations loosen all screws – except this one.

After intense years of development, Detroit Tap & Tool introduced Spiralock, the screw thread that became the savior of the aerospace industry. Without it, NASA’s rockets and space shuttle could not remain intact.

As word of Spiralock’s success spread through the engineering community, this unique fastener went on to vanquish problems in products such as automobiles and washing machines as well as rockets, airplanes and satellites.

Ed eventually morphed Detroit Tap and Tool into The Spiralock Corporation whose success expanded internationally, with manufacturing partners in Europe, Asia, and North and South America. As Ed edged toward retirement, he consulted for many manufacturing organizations, establishing frameworks for change and teaching executives the art of following through.

Ed’s enthusiasm for athletics and the outdoors was limitless. He not only won national, regional and local championships in sailboats, he also was an expert fisherman, skeet shooter and bird hunter. For many years, he could be found schooling players half his age in the game of handball.

Ed Palm will be remembered by his business and sailing colleagues for his exuberant love of life, a quality he shared generously in body and spirit. To his multitude of friends, Ed was the essence of life itself; to his close-knit family, he was a steady guide and inspiration. All will miss him sorely.

Edward Bert Palm is survived by his two children Merritt Palm Keffer (Chris Keffer); Justin Palm; grandchildren Allison Keffer and Andrew Keffer; his former wife Patricia Dennis Palm; and his nieces Kimberly (Smith) Gaona and Kristen (Smith) Mon Goy. He is preceded in death by his parents Bert and Harriet (nee Winburn) Palm, brother Fred Palm, and sister Patricia Smith.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Little Traverse Sailors: https://www.littletraversesailors.org/product/donate/

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