Editorial: 'Always be grateful, but never be satisfied'
● By Richard Gaw
In the summer of 2014, as the Chester County Press was producing its annual Unionville Fair magazine supplement, a reporter visited the offices of Tri-M, a Kennett Square-based electrical solutions company, to meet with its leaders and discuss two things for an article that later appeared in the publication: the company's long involvement in the fair, and its upcoming 50th anniversary. There to met him were president and chief executive officer Jim Horn and Traci Baugess, public relations manager, who then introduced her parents, Bonnie and Thomas Musser, then 79, who had founded the company with his brother Dick in 1964.
The conversation began with the company's humble beginnings, and segued to its continuing mission of maintaining its business foothold in education, energy, financial health care, and institutional, pharmaceutical and telecommunications industries, achieved through the diligence of the company's more than 400 employees.
Then, with a twinkle in his eye, Thomas Musser began to shift the conversation in another direction – to the Kennett Square community he, Bonnie and the entire Tri-M company had served for more than a half century. He spoke with such a glowing pride about the people who worked for Tri-M, it was as if he were speaking about his own children. It soon became apparent to the reporter that Musser wanted to talk about the fact that the Tri-M family were also coaches and volunteer firemen and church and school and scout leaders, and not so much about electrical solutions.
That Musser, who died last week at the age of 81, found more delight in telling the other side of Tri-M he helped begin, would surprise no one who knew him. Over the last fifty years, the footprint that Thomas Musser made in the community he loved was indeed one of the largest ever cast. He tirelessly served as president, chairman and member of enough boards and civic associations for ten lifetimes, and often were the weeknights when he would leave his office at Tri-M to attend or run another meeting. He and Bonnie's presence at local events were both well received and understated, and whenever an organization sought vision or commitment or a means by which to raise capital – they turned to him, and he never turned his back on them.
At one point during the conversation, Musser turned to the reporter and said of his life, “My philosophy has always been, 'Always be thankful, but never be satisfied.'”
Thomas Musser dove fully and selflessly into a life of service, a continuing commitment that earned him great praise, but it was praise that was just as quickly hushed by a sense of humility that helped define a generous soul, whose accomplishments were not shouted to anyone within earshot, but rather, whispered.
Framed and hanging in the front lobby of the Tri-M offices on Gale Road in Kennett Square are the original invoices of a new business that later became one of the leading electrical solutions companies in America. One invoice is for twelve dollars. Another one is for nineteen dollars -- they are the printed documents of one man's humble beginnings, and the forebearer of what would become good fortune.
And yet, the life he led was so much more than that. Thomas Musser was the living and breathing response to the question of whether or not we, as individuals, have the capacity to live our lives not entirely for our own purpose, but for others.
To that end, the legacy of Thomas Musser does not end with his passing, but continues on like a blueprint. The solutions are right there on the page, just as he left them for all of us to follow.