Sheila Loftus, 79, has been remembered as a fearless and determined advocate for the collision repair industry
Friends and colleagues remember Sheila Loftus as an intelligent, courageous and determined advocate of the body industry and a pioneer who paved the way for other women to enter the field.
Loftus, the former executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA), publisher of Hammer & Dolly magazine, founder of CRASH Network and co-founder of the Women’s Industry Network (WIN), died this week of complications from a stroke. cerebral. His death was reported by his friend Gigi Walker (Walker’s Auto Body and Fleet Repair) in a social media post. She was 79 years old.
Those who knew her described Loftus as a professional journalist who was never shy about asking tough questions, but who always treated others with honesty and respect.
Jordan Hendler, who succeeded Loftus as executive director of WMABA, called her a “relentless defense” of the repair industry.
“She was one of the first women to truly speak out and was responsible for the creation of virtually every acronym in the industry,” Hendler told Repairer Driven News.
She said Loftus was a mentor to countless people, including herself. “She encouraged me to express my opinion, my opinion and my thoughts,” she said. “She was an inspiration and instrumental in my entire career. She was an equal opportunity for people to get involved, make a difference, get the facts and not just follow the fluent.
Loftus “had the dirt” on anyone she saw as an industry naysayer, Hendler said. “A lot of people can sleep with both eyes closed now,” she said.
John Yoswick, who took over CRASH Network when Loftus retired in 2008, said: “I have long thought that few people work harder on behalf of the industry than Sheila.
“Sheila had the fearlessness and endless curiosity to be a successful journalist in this industry, even without formal journalism training,” he said. “She was never shy about asking the tough questions or fiercely defending body repairers.
“You were never quite sure what she was going to say when she stepped up to the mic at an industry event, but it was not uncommon for it to be something other in the room were definitely thinking or wondering, but maybe not having the guts and the will of Sheila to put it out there,” Yoswick said. “She didn’t mind stirring up trouble, and sometimes it did. has proven to be a way to get things done.”
Tony Lombardozzi, President of the Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence (CEMR), called Loftus “the first lady of the collision repair industry.”
“I’ve always said one thing about Sheila: she was a real journalist. She always asked the right questions. That’s why sometimes she might have rubbed some people the wrong way,” Lombardozzi said.
“When she was in a CIC [Collision Industry Conference meeting] and she got on the mic, everyone was cringing,” he said with a laugh. “If you did a good job, she would let you know. If you didn’t, in her opinion, she would tell you what you did wrong. And we in the industry appreciate that.
“She was very strong in her beliefs, but she had this industry at heart,” he said. “She was a fighter for this industry.”
Loftus’ view, Lombardozzi said, was that “we can be an independent business controlled solely by the owners of the business, who would receive a fair price for our goods and services. She always believed that we should be like other businesses and should be entitled to a profitable return on our investment. »
Defending this belief has put her at odds with a variety of interests and has also brought her on more than one occasion to Washington, DC to testify before congressional committees on behalf of the industry.
She has also devoted her energies to creating the Women’s Industry Network, helping other women build their own careers in collision repair. “Sheila has made breakthroughs for many women working in this industry today. From technicians to management to ownership, we have a lot more involvement on the female side, and I attribute some of that to her, because she broke the ice,” Lombardozzi said.
Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), called Loftus “a fearless trailblazer.”
“Sheila has played a vital role in the history of this industry, and although she was long retired, her work and her legacy have had a lasting impact on those working in the collision industry today. today. We should all be so lucky to leave behind such a contribution,” Schulenburg said.
“The industry looked up to WMABA and Hammer & Dolly – they still do – but at the time, Sheila created visibility for the issues at a time when it was much harder to do. She believed in giving a voice to the industry, standing up for the underrepresented, and she did it tenaciously. I know the industry wouldn’t be what it is today without people like Sheila.
When Loftus founded CRASH Network in 1994, it was the industry’s first publication distributed more than once a month, Yoswick said. “I know that many of his subscribers, association members and colleagues were sorry that his involvement in the industry was coming to an end.”
Friends and colleagues have posted their appreciation of Loftus on social media.
“In addition to being a friend, colleague and contributor to our magazines, Sheila was a friend. A gentle person but quite fierce when fighting for justice. And she fought for justice in our industry,” wrote Michel A. Malik, CEO and Group Editor at BodyShop News International.
“She was a pioneer because of her journalistic approach to our industry. His leadership of the association was revolutionary. She always dug into stories to get to the truth based on believable facts. She loved the auto body industry and advocated doing it right. I will remember her as an upright and gracious friend,” said Steve Trapp, Director of Strategic Accounts, Axalta Coating Systems.
“I first met Sheila in the 90s and, to me, she embodied toughness with grace,” said Tony Molla, former vice president of industry relations for the Automotive Service Association (ASA ). “I am honored to have had the opportunity to benefit from his kindness, wisdom and advice over the years. She was a friend, a mentor, a critic and an adviser, often at the same time. As a fellow journalist, Sheila taught me not to believe anything I hear and only half of what I see. Her work to help establish WIN and her support and encouragement of women in the collision industry qualifies Sheila as one of the giants, and we are humbled by her passing.
“I have to say those who didn’t know Sheila personally missed it,” Yoswick told RDN. “While we’ve always been cordial while we both worked in the industry, it’s really only been in the last 10 or 12 years that I’ve developed a real friendship and appreciation for her in as a person.
“She kept looking for ways to stir up trouble – and have fun. She was extremely generous. She cared so much about her family (including her cats). She remained always curious and always kind to her friends – and really everyone she met,” he said.
Featured Image: Facebook profile photo of Sheila Loftus.
Sheila Loftus, then executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association, testifies before a congressional committee on the cost of collision repair on June 17, 1988. (Screen capture via C-SPAN)