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

Memories Shared

Adding his recollections to those of Gartner, Doug Bartlett, a current member of FTA’s Board of Directors and FFTA’s Board of Trustees, stated, “I worked with Darrell from 1982 until his passing in 1997. He left an impression on me from the day I met him. His passion for the company and the people within it was exceptional.”

Bartlett continued, “I worked with Darrell on many projects—both from a sales perspective and from the technology side. He had an infectious attitude and drive that kept things exciting for us. I remember working with him every year to put together all the samples and specs on what seemed like hundreds of FTA awards submissions. He always had some side projects to keep us busy and most of the time we didn’t see it coming. What strikes me most about Darrell is how passionate he was for the business and how that passion was passed on to those of us who worked with him.

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Gartner (left) and Dochstader (right) with FTA’s Bill Dowdell

“Darrell had a way of giving advice and guiding others that really made working at Gar-Doc a special experience,” Bartlett observed. “I basically grew up with Gar-Doc and carried many things that I learned from Darrell throughout my almost 40-year career. His passion for the business and people gave me a great example to follow. I still think of Darrell and the things he taught me about the business and about life frequently.”

Wally Nard, FTA Hall of Fame member, offered this comment: “I remember Darrell Dochstader as one of the first in the narrow web industry pioneering very high-quality process printing. His company won numerous print awards for many years. His work led the way for many others in flexography to feel they could also achieve the same print quality. He opened the door for flexography to move into gravure print quality.” Nard also said, “Darrell spoke at numerous FTA meetings, sharing his knowledge. As an active member of the FTA Board, he was instrumental in pushing the industry to greater heights.”

Dave Horsman, FTA Hall of Fame Legacy Committee chair, noted, “I never personally knew Darrell, but to me he was always one of the most legendary people of our industry through his dedication to the FTA and contributions his company, Gar-Doc, made in advancing our printing process. …I remember noticing flexo printing for the first time in the early 1970s. It was a label that Gar-Doc had printed for an encyclopedia. It blew me away knowing what our industry could be capable of. I also know that they were more than willing to share their knowledge with our industry to make us all better.”

Jean Jackson, another FTA Hall of Fame member, added, “I had the pleasure of calling on Gar-Doc and interacting with both Darrell and Gerry for about five years. That was in the early days of laser-engraved rolls. Darrell and Gerry went by the numbers and focused on repeatability, uptime and print work that flexo had never tackled before. They wanted to understand every piece of technology and how it worked and as a result, they never stopped learning.”

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Photo courtesy of Bob Friedburg

Elaborating on that point, she said, “They were true leaders in mechanical methodology and understanding the challenges of print. Best of all—they were willing to share everything they knew about printing.”

In reminiscing, Jackson recalled one early interaction with Darrell. “The first time I served as a judge in the Excellence in Flexography Awards, Darrell walked up to me and said something to the effect of, ‘Everybody is focused on 4-color process work; 2-color duotone work is much harder to do—it’s far less forgiving. You see everything. Prepress requirements are far more complicated and detailed. It takes exceptional preparation to orchestrate quality print.”

Bruce Riddell, one of two FTA Hall of Fame members hailing from Spectrum Label, considered Darrell a role model. And he applied the label to Dochstader’s partner, Gartner, as well. Riddell recalled, “Alan Leeson [Spectrum Label president and FTA Hall of Fame member, now deceased] was very inspired by the work that Darrell and his partner had accomplished in developing leading-edge technology for flexography. Those developments impacted all segments of the flexo industry, whether they knew it or not. They brought plate technology from Corning when Darrell and Gerry ventured into the label business.”

Riddell heralded the Gar-Doc team leaders’ foresight and intuition and said, “As speakers at many TLMI and FTA events, they led the way in printing technology and product development for narrow web that was ahead of its time.” Of Dochstader himself, Riddell noted, “He led the way for our industry’s technology and was a role model Spectrum Label followed for how to run a successful and prosperous company with dedicated people.” Riddell continued, “My hat is off to Darrell and the people who sought excellence with him. He was also a friend, and we are all in his debt for our progress.”

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Collection of Gar-Doc team photos from decades past
Photo courtesy of Bob Friedburg

Tony Bart, another FTA Hall of Fame member who by chance is one of those DuPont technical team members that brought in-plant plate making to Gar-Doc, made it clear that he held Dochstader in high regard. “Darrell was one of those unique guys who could bridge the technical aspects of flexography with the ability to share and describe (including humor) those details to folks at all levels in flexography. He along with Gerry Gartner were entrepreneurs, starting Gar-Doc to produce quality process printed labels. Both guys spent years and years at Corning Glass in the development of finely etched glass to replace magnesium molds used to produce flexo plates. Gar-Doc was immediately viewed as a premier flexo printer.”

Bart shared his memories further: “Then and soon after, in partnership with DuPont, they took a major step by supporting the development of photopolymer plate technology. They installed the first-ever Cyrel plate system—and what a success that was! Using film, UV light and photo-monomer, which was then converted into photopolymer, the finest-detailed flexo printing plate of its time was born. This essentially was the end of the era of molded plates. Year after year, Gar-Doc not only won Best of Show awards for narrow web—but Best of Show in all flexography.

“As a friend and colleague of Darrell, we lost him at far too early an age,” Bart concluded. “I live with many memories of the fun times we shared together and the serious times when we ventured down new technical paths.”