Ronald Joseph Fournier
1942 - 2017
Legendary master metal craftsman, Ronald Joseph Fournier, passed away on September 17, and while he left behind a remarkable impact upon the metal fabrication industry, he also leaves behind a rich legacy of mentorship, kindness, and charity. As his daughter, Nicole Fournier, lovingly notes, “He had a big, big heart.”
Ron didn’t just dedicate his career to the craft of metal work, he dedicated his life to the art. Even so, his world-renowned skills in transforming metal for the custom automotive, aircraft, and motorcycle industries weren’t the only reasons for his immense fame. His humble upbringing and a rather rocky start in school both contributed to his lifelong policy of sharing knowledge and expertise. At a time when other industry professionals hoarded information and actively protected their trade secrets, Ron openly shared his expert techniques and well-honed experience. Not only did he co-write two books on metal crafting with his wife Susan, who passed away in 2003, he developed and began teaching classes on metal work, was a demonstrator at trade and industry events like Autorama, and a consultant for Eckold AG and General Motors, among others. He wrote countless articles for trade publications and made regular appearances at industry shows, as well as metal crafting workshops.
Courted by the likes of Roger Penske, A.J. Foyt, Kar Kraft, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and M.I.T., Ron was able to balance consulting work and running his own businesses, beginning with Race Craft, which quickly earned the reputation as one of the finest metal fabrication shops in the country, to Fournier Enterprises, which houses a number of divisions, including full-size custom built vehicles, Metal Fabrication Workshops, instructional films, tool design and development, as well as a line of hand-fabricated vintage racing models. Master tradesman, author, entrepreneur, researcher, designer, photographer, filmmaker, Ron’s list of accomplishments goes on.
Yet, more important than any of these achievements, was Ron’s absolute dedication to mentoring anyone who demonstrated interest in the trade. Truly, he was the epitome of a teacher. Often, he would accept apprentices who merely walked into the shop and simply asked if Ron would be willing to guide them. He never once refused to share his expertise and never tired of assisting others in the industry. He drew inspiration for his first book, and then, his classes, from this charitable practice: he could reach even more people if he published his work and offered a classroom for those who sought his knowledge and instruction. He labored tirelessly so that the craft to which he had devoted over half a century of his own life, would prosper for centuries more.
Ron provided this same kind of support and dedication for his family and friends. He was the one who calmed the waters when matters became tense, and he made friends easily, charming those near him with his dry wit and clever humor. Forget his career, according to his friends, his one-liners are the stuff of legend. True to form, Ron’s characteristic altruism also extended to animals. He loved cats and dogs, and more often than not, he kept various cats he had rescued at the family home. While he and his son, Dan Fournier, bonded over time spent building a prized roadster in the garage, Ron also made sure to attend all of his daughter’s dance recitals and encouraged her customary early morning study sessions by rising earlier than he actually would have wanted, and cooking her breakfast. Together, the family frequently made trips to his parents’ cottage in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and Dan enjoyed the fishing, and also to Disney World, where Ron was game for just about anything, except for the roller coasters. Given his penchant for animals, it comes as no great surprise that Ron’s favorite attraction was Animal Kingdom. While his work often kept him away from the household, whenever his children faced a disappointment or a crisis, Ron was there to offer them comfort. As he himself put it, “this is my shoulder, you can put your head here.”
Known as Poppy to his three grandchildren, Julia, Alex, and David, Ron loved being a hands-on grandfather. The time he couldn’t spend with his own children, Ron heaped upon his grandkids. He delighted in building them things they would enjoy, like a miniature car for Julia that she drove endlessly around the neighborhood. He also spent a great deal of time with them sharing his passions: drawing, sketching, and constructing. More than anything, he adored completing projects with his grandchildren, always trying to teach them how to generate something material from their own imaginations.
Although they wrote two books together, an endeavor that would drive most couples apart, Ron cherished 37 years of marriage with his late wife Susan. The two were inseparable. They shared the same sense of humor and Susan often aided Ron in his rather notorious habit as a practical jokester. More than that, they found solace in one another’s company and treasured their alone time, often adventuring on the weekends to visit botanical gardens and nearby attractions. The strength of that relationship also served as the foundation for Fournier Enterprises, which is a true family business: for more than 20 years, Dan worked with his father in the shop, fabricating metal, and Nicole ran the day-to-day operations. Ron’s tremendous appreciation for his family, and their respective talents, allowed the business to flourish into a leader in the industry. Today, Fournier Enterprises is run by Ron’s cousin, Jeff Fournier, who continues to build upon Ron’s vision, as well as expand upon the classes and training originally offered by Ron, a testament to that unique legacy which Ron spent a lifetime creating.