Industry loses an icon and a great leader as Howard Bernstein passes at the age of 92

howardHoward Bernstein, material handling icon and founder of Atlas Companies, died on May 18 at the age of 92.

Bernstein spent more than 75 years building his material handling business and promoting the industry, and he built friendships with everyone he met along the way.

Bernstein served as president of the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) in 1965 and attended almost every convention.

After stepping down from the Atlas Companies in 2011, Bernstein remained passionate about encouraging young people to enter material handling. As a result, in 2012, he formed the Howard Bernstein Industrial Distribution Scholarship Fund and contributing $150,000 of his own money to launch it. The Scholarship Program was developed in partnership with MHEDA and MHI. It is managed and administered by the Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc. (MHEFI).

His message for young people was that the material handling industry is an exciting and vibrant one where you interact with people at all levels.

“Howard was an icon and an example of someone who truly gave back to this industry. He never stopped sharing his experience and knowledge,” said George Prest, CEO of MHI. “Howard passionately worked to help raise awareness of this industry among young people. Our industry has lost a great man.”

Bernstein had 4 children, 9 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. He flew PV1 and PV2 twin-engine, low-level attack bombers during World War II and served as the vice president of the Palm Springs Air Museum.

The Straw Hat
The story goes that Bernstein attended various trade shows in Europe in 1959, in particular the Hannover Fair. At the fair, Bernstein encountered many people and didn’t know any of them. He decided to do some self-advertising and took a picture of himself in a straw hat and sent it to his customers so that he could be easily recognized. It worked and a legend was born. Bernstein famously said, “I got to communicate and meet many people that I hadn’t already. They came across this guy in a funny straw hat and I got an identity that way.”

He certainly did.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Harriet Bernstein and the entire Bernstein family and friends.

Memorials can be sent to the Howard Bernstein Scholarship Fund or the Palm Springs Air Museum.