Ralph C. Meloon, who served as Correct Craft’s president, executive vice president, treasurer, and chairman of the board, died on Saturday. He was 100.
Meloon began working at the Florida Variety Boat Company — now Correct Craft — that his father Walter C. Meloon started in 1925. Meloon helped shape the company for decades.
The middle of three brothers, Meloon was 7 years old when his father moved the family from New Hampshire to Florida to start the boat-building business. Meloon always upheld his family’s tradition of “Building boats to the glory of God,” while insisting on the highest quality in Correct Craft’s boats.
He is also credited with industry milestones. “Ralph started the first promo team of people who would use our boats to pull tournaments around the country,” Correct Craft president and CEO Bill Yeargin told Trade Only Today. “That gave people an idea on what watersports and the towboat market were all about. Today almost all the companies in our industry have a version of this program – it really helped proliferate towboats.”
When the company went bankrupt in 1960, Meloon was “heartbroken,” according to Yeargin. “He personally spent 25 years tracking down debtors and their families until he was sure that everyone was repaid,” he said.
Following the bankruptcy, Meloon wanted to increase distribution, so he and his wife traveled to find dealers around the country, sleeping in a tent because the company could not afford to pay for his hotel room.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Meloon traveled to 85 countries promoting waterskiing and building the Correct Craft brand. He was able to get into Communist countries that few others were able to enter, said Yeargin. A deeply religious man, Meloon also used to smuggle bibles into the countries. “He also played a small part in the demise of Communism. When people saw the quality of the boats, compared to products built in Communist countries, they knew their leaders were lying to them about Communism creating better products,” said Yeargin.
Meloon regularly told Yeargin how proud he was of the company’s growth and success.
“No one was happier to see the success of Correct Craft than Ralph – when we would acquire a new company he would call the new company president and encourage them and share Correct Craft’s values,” said Yeargin. “Even though we have grown tremendously since the family owned the company, he was truly thrilled and took great joy in our success.”
Yeargin said Meloon was in great spirits when he visited him and his family in hospice a few nights ago. “Ralph would come in my office almost every day and say ‘Bill, Betty and I prayed for you this morning,’” said Yeargin. “Before he left my office he would say ‘We love you, Bill’.”
In his own travels promoting the brand, Yeargin said that people all over the world asked about Ralph. As of this morning, there were 120 messages of condolences on Yeargin’s Facebook page, where he posted a collage of photos showing the two men together.”
“As we celebrate Ralph’s life, we recommit ourselves to the values that Ralph so embraced; faith, integrity, and family – those are the things that were important to him,” said Yeargin in a statement.