A Legend's lifetime in the Construction Industry - Tribute in Memoriam
John Laing, Rice Drywall
Rice Drywall, Inc. was incorporated on March 2, 1973 by Don Rice. Don had been working in drywall and steel stud framing with his own father, who was involved in creating the steel studs that we use to frame buildings today, and decided he was ready to launch his own business. Don formed Rice Drywall, Inc. (“Rice”) and built its first corporate office in South El Monte, California. Along with building his business, Don also became very involved with the Western Wall and Ceiling Association (“WWCCA”), an Orange County-based association of those in the union finishing trades, and was an avid bird enthusiast. Don was a well-respected and successful businessman and built Rice with a strong foundation from which it would continue grow for many years.
In 1977, Don’s son-in-law, John Laing (who was married to Don’s daughter, Caren), joined Rice after working in sales for Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals. John saw an opportunity to realize his dream of owning a business when his father-in-law retired and found he enjoyed working in the construction industry. He started as a carpenter apprentice and worked his way up the ranks to management through the years. Eventually John purchased the business from Don in 1990.
John became very involved in the construction community and served on several national association boards in order to better serve the industry. He was most proud of his work with the WWCCA where he served in many positions. His favorite job was being the appointed negotiator for management. He enjoyed working with the labor representative to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement each year that he felt benefited both businesses and the individuals who worked for them. John was also very proud of his work with the national Finishing Contractor’s Association (“FCA”). He served on the FCA board for many years and felt strongly that he was making a difference in the lives of individuals who worked diligently in the finishing trades. He also loved that it took him to Washington, D.C. each year, where he could spend time with his daughter, Kim, while she attended law school at Georgetown University.
Throughout John’s tenure at Rice, Caren, John’s wife, also became involved in the business, mostly in administrative matters. She traveled with John to industry and trade events and enjoyed watching the business her father built continue to grow. In 2003, John and Caren moved to Newport Beach. Their three daughters, Kim, Lindsey and Shannon, already lived in Orange County, and John had long dreamed of living in a home from which he could see the ocean.
In 2005 John was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and was told he would need a double lung transplant. His daughter, Kim, was practicing law at Rutan & Tucker LLP in Orange County and had just had her first child. She and John discussed her coming to work for Rice to help manage the business while John recovered from his transplant. John’s transplant was successful, and Kim had found she enjoyed working in the family business so decided to make the situation permanent. John decided to “semi-retire” in order to more fully enjoy the gift of life he’d been given. Kim and Keith Barakat, a trusted and loyal friend and employee, took over the management of Rice so John could travel and enjoy his hobbies.
In November 2010, John passed away from lung cancer. It was difficult for Rice to overcome the loss of its heart and soul, but together, Kim and Keith have diligently worked to maintain, and even build, the company that John so loved. The company achieved National Woman’s Business Enterprise Certification and is proud to be a third generation family-owned business.
John was known to his employees and those in the community, as a generous man who expected, and rewarded, loyalty and hard work. Kim and Keith strive to continue the 46-year tradition of quality, customer satisfaction and professionalism that the Rice family has built. Kim enjoys hearing her children, Matthew and Kate, talk about how they will one day work at “Papa’s company” and works to ensure that they, and the other loyal employees of Rice, have that opportunity.
1990 to 2010 President of Rice Drywall, Inc.
1987 to 1990 Manager and Estimator of Rice Drywall, Inc.
1985 to 1987 Estimator and Project Manager of Rice Drywall, Inc.
1975 to 1985 Superintendent for Rice Drywall, Inc.
1972 to 1975 Journeyman/Foreman Carpenter for Rice Drywall, Inc.
1970 to 1975 Hospital representative for Parke Davis Pharmaceuticals
1970 graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology and a Minor in Business Administration
Member of the Business Industry Association, San Gabriel Valley Chapter
Executive Board Member of WWCCA
Past President of WWCCA
Member of the Board of Trustees of the IUPAT
Labor Management Cooperation Initiative
Executive Board Member (Treasurer) of the Finishing Contractors Association
Trustee of the District Council 36 (IUPAT) Health and Welfare Trust
Lead Management Negotiator with regard to IUPAT District Council 36
Member of the Associated Walls and Ceilings Industry