Foam Executive Jake Barnhardt Jr. Dies

Jacob “Jake” Barnhardt Jr., one of the founders and a former president of NCFI Polyurethanes, headquartered in Mount Airy, North Carolina, died May 12. He was 82.

According to a company news release, NCFI saw considerable growth when Barnhardt helmed the company from 1972 until 1995.

“It was a dynamic time,” said Lewis Barnhardt, president and chief operating officer of NCFI parent Barnhardt Manufacturing Co., based in Charlotte, North Carolina. We “more than tripled our manufacturing space and took the lead in” foam for aircraft seating, carpet padding, residential insulation, roofing and geotechnical (below ground construction) uses. (We also) started doing business in Canada, Mexico, Russia and South America. “Jake had a hand in it all.”

“Jake played a major role working with NASA and Lockheed Martin to formulate and provide the exacting standards required for the space shuttle program,” he said. “It’s a working partnership of which we’re extremely proud and for which we’ve won accolades and awards. It’s also a relationship we still enjoy as we enter our 38th year.”

According to NCFI President Chip Holton, “Jake’s leadership was crucial to NCFI at a time when change was constant. We had to innovate and change quickly and balance the growth opportunities with what our scientists and chemists could achieve. … he was known throughout the plastics and rubber industry as a visionary and is remembered as a great storyteller and lifelong humanitarian.”

The company will honor Barnhardt’s memory with a private ceremony later this year.

Barnhardt was born in Charlotte and earned an engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Following a stint in the U.S. Navy, he began working in the family business Barnhardt Manufacturing, later transferring to the newly formed subsidiary North Carolina Foam Industries. After his retirement in 2001, he pursued favorite interests such as sailing, boat building and philanthropy.

Immediate survivors include his second wife, Amy Pitser, and her children; his brother, Jack; his children, Caroline Stuart, Gwynn Sullivan, Jacob McIntyre Barnhardt, and Virginia Johnston Barnhardt and their families.

Memorial donations may be made to the Children’s Hope Alliance, P.O. Box 1, Barium Springs, NC, 28010, or Childrens-HopeAlliance.org.