Former Ulbrich Steels CEO dies at 83

WALLINGFORD — Fred Ulbrich will be remembered as a businessman, family man, humanitarian, and passionate supporter of the town.

Ulbrich, 83, the board chairman of Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals, died Saturday at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Son Chris Ulbrich, the firm’s chief executive and board vice-chairman, and nephew Jay Cei, its chief operating officer, will carry on the fourth-generation family business. Chris Ulbrich said he has learned from his father’s leadership style, which was based on treating people fairly and fostering a sense of community, while Cei called his uncle a tremendous mentor and motivator.

“We’ve all learned from him,” Chris Ulbrich said.

“We all aspire to be what he was,” Cei added.

Cei said Fred Ulbrich was a “real visionary and entrepreneur,” who led Ulbrich Steels into many new markets. Ulbrich began working for the company in 1947 and helped it grow from $10 million in annual sales when he took over in 1969 to about $400 million today, and led its expansion to 12 domestic and international plants staffed by about 750 employees, Cei said.

Three of Chris Ulbrich’s four children work for Ulbrich Steels, but he said the loss of his father — who he called a “wonderful father and grandfather”— would also be felt personally by Ulbrich’s extended family, his company. Cei said his uncle treated all of his employees like members of the family, and they returned his warmth.

“Nobody ever called him Mr. Ulbrich,” he said. “Everyone just called him Fred.”

Fred Ulbrich was known on a first-name basis throughout Wallingford because of his extensive service and contributions to the community. “It was hard not to make contact with Fred. He was just so busy and involved,” said Town Councilor and friend of over 50 years Bob Parisi. “He was an outstanding leader in the town.”

“There will never be another Fred Ulbrich,” said Robin Wilson, former chair of the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce.

“Fred Ulbrich will live on in the thousands of lives that he touched,” she said, citing his work with the Rotary Club, the Boys and Girls Club, which named its facility the Ulbrich Boys and Girls Club of Wallingford, and the YMCA, which named its summer day camp program Camp Ulbrich. Ulbrich was also involved with the Wallingford Education Association and the United Way.

“He had particular concern for children,” said Cei, who is also a school board member. Cei said one reason Ulbrich bought the Mountain Ridge property on High Hill Road — prior to its sale to New Life Church — was so children from the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA could have a place to camp overnight and experience nature. Ulbrich also purchased camping equipment for the groups, he said.

“He didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk,” Wilson said. “His light will shine for a long, long time to come.” (203) 317-2242 Twitter: @JeffGebeauRJ

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