Darrell L. Dochstader Is the Inaugural Inductee into FTA’s New Legacy Hall of Fame

Few people have been credited with shaping an industry to the degree that Darrell Lee Dochstader (1941-1997), co-founder of Gar-Doc Inc in Milford, NH, is recognized as influencing package printing and converting—the craft, its practitioners and the flexographic process in particular.

A force in the industry for some 30 years, his passion, determination and pursuit of excellence is referenced to this day—some 50 years after Gar-Doc was incorporated and 24 years since his death at just shy of 56 years old.

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Darrell Dochstader in the late 1970s. At the close of the decade, he served as FTA president and chaired FORUM 1979.

Countless people, many among those most respected in FTA circles, still name Dochstader as a mentor, trusted advisor and never-to-be-forgotten friend, one who is often thought of as new business concepts are brought to fruition. Given his formidable status and rock-solid reputation as one of flexography’s true movers and shakers—an icon and an innovator—FTA is once again honoring Dochstader, as it names him the inaugural inductee into its Legacy Hall of Fame.

Record of Achievement

It’s not the first time Dochstader was FTA’s initial honoree. Back in 1996, he and Gar-Doc partner Gerry Gartner were designated inaugural recipients of FTA’s Distinguished Achievement Award. It recognized “service to the association and the industry over a protracted period.”

A FLEXO Magazine article posted at that time reported, “In May 1996, the firm was described as a world leader in narrow web converting. Gar-Doc’s record of service to FTA, other associations and the flexographic industry is without peer. The company’s technical achievement, as measured by the number of awards won in competitions, is legend.”

It noted, “Over a 20-year span, Gar-Doc won 300 awards in the FTA Awards competition, including seven Best of Show.” It also received 56 TLMI awards, with one Best of Show between 1982 and 1985, plus four awards from FINAT.

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Dochstader (right), alongside Gar-Doc principal Gerry Gartner, standing in front of the firm’s awards gallery.

Dochstader himself was credited with having been a member of the FTA Board of Directors for eight years, before becoming president of the association in 1979 and holding the post for two years (1979-1981). He was also a:

  • Three-time judge in the FTA Awards competition
  • Team leader of a group that helped create FLEXO Magazine
  • Chairman of the FTA Narrow Web Committee for three years
  • Chairman of FFTA’s Annual FORUM 1979 in Atlanta, GA
  • Annual FORUM speaker 10+ times

The longtime entrepreneur served as managing director of Gar-Doc Inc from its 1971 founding right up until his Aug. 4, 1997 death. In addition to his service to FTA, Dochstader led TLMI as its chairman of the Board of Directors from 1991-1992 and served on that board for a total of eight years. He was also named TLMI’s Converter of the Year in 1988. In other roles, he spent two years as a member of the TLMI/FINAT Advisory Board, and chaired Labelexpo in its early years.

Partner’s Perspective

“Darrell was a giant in the industry, I would not be where I am today without him,” recalled his business partner Gartner. “We got together at 25, 26 years old, while working at Corning Glass in the late 1960s and very early 1970s.” As they worked on a team charged with developing a high-quality printing plate, flexography issued its beckoning call—between the two friends’ frequent fishing trips out on Seneca Lake.

Gar-Doc was incorporated on June 17, 1971. According to Gartner, it operated on four core principles: technical innovation, respect for the individual, customer service and excellence in execution. “What got us involved with FTA was our experience in the plate making arena. At the time, plate making was exclusively the purview of trade shops, with rubber being the medium of choice. At Gar-Doc, we convinced the technical people at DuPont to partner with us in setting up the first in-plant Cyrel plate making system and with that in place, we won awards right out of the gate.”

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FTA Board of Directors, circa 1979

Gartner called Dochstader the marketing genius behind the firm’s success and noted that he in turn took on the manufacturing role—a 100 percent flip-flop from their respective roles with Corning. The firm, best known for its cutting-edge approach to top-quality flexography, also engaged in offset and screen printing. Gartner said one reason why racking up FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards was so important to its success was the focus on big corporations that looked for a record of proven success, rather than pursuing small, more local orders. One large customer—the US Treasury. “We got approached and developed a security feature used in US currency starting in 1990, which is still in use today.”

Gartner admitted that following Dochstader’s death, going it alone brought many challenges, so he sold out to Spear—which later merged into Multi-Color Corp and is now poised to join forces with Fort Dearborn and rank among the world’s largest label solutions company.