Remembering a Coatings Pioneer


Paul I. Meli Jr., who passed away Aug. 29 at age 93, was a pioneer in coatings chemistry. Mr. Meli, a WWII vet who served at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, began formulating coatings in the 1950s and invented some of the most widely used epoxy coating systems for use in lining underground storage tanks.

As the founder of the Enviroline brand, originally part of the Industrial Environmental Coatings Corporation and now a subsidiary of AkzoNobel, Mr. Meli created and marketed new and environmentally friendly linings, and eventually worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop standards for tanks to prevent corrosion and associated problems.

Mr. Meli, who is survived by wife Theresa, two sons and six grandchildren, was a mentor to PaintSquare blogger and corrosion expert Warren Brand. Brand provided us with this personal remembrance of Mr. Meli.

Getting to the 'Who'

Paul I. Meli Jr. passed away last week. Obituaries do the best they can in describing the “what” and “how” of a person’s life, but they don’t do a good job of describing the “who” of a person.

Paul was an innovator and formulator of 100 percent solids and similar epoxy coatings systems when he started his first coating company back in 1951. I don’t want to violate any confidentiality or other agreements, but I know for a fact that many formulations he developed decades ago have been sold and resold many times, and remain in use, providing extraordinary, and safe, corrosion protection for millions of square feet of predominantly tank interiors.

Paul was the first in his family to attend college, at City College of New York, where he received a degree in chemistry and a minor in philosophy. He then went on to receive his master’s, in microbiology, from Rutgers.

Coating Development

In the early 1960s, Paul was formulating high-solids and 100 percent solids epoxies for tanks. In the late ‘80s, he worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop regulations for the lining of the interiors of underground storage tanks (USTs). I’ve personally applied thousands of gallons of Paul’s materials—one, designed for use in USTs, which could be sprayed at between 100 and 125 mils, in one coat, without sagging. He also developed one of the most robust coatings for swimming pools I’ve ever seen.

Paul was a loving father to two sons, grandfather to six and a military veteran.

But getting to the “who” of a person is more complex.

A Giving Mentor

My first memory of Paul goes back so far, it is one of those that you’re not quite sure if it’s real or rather a blend of what’s real and what’s not.

It doesn’t really matter.

Paul knew me from the time I was born, in 1961. I know he was at my Bar Mitzvah and was a frequent guest in our home. Prominently displayed in my living room are two bone-China and gold serving plates, a wedding gift he gave to Michelle and me more than 25 years ago.

While I remember various moments spending time with Paul, talking to him on the phone, and so forth, what I remember most is the fact that he was kind. I watched him struggle through a challenging business shakeup decades ago, and he always strove to do the right thing, perhaps a reflection on his minor in philosophy and being a devoutly religious man.

Paul recommended me for my first litigation-support gig, as an expert witness. I suspect that he didn’t know he was a mentor of mine, and I suspect I didn’t realize it until I heard he was gone. It had been years since we spoke, but he was the type of man who I knew I could call for anything–and he would drop what he was doing and provide me his undivided attention and sage advice, whether technical, professional or personal.

I wrote a blog this past January about kindness. Paul epitomizes what I was trying to get at in that entry.

Despite all of Paul’s contributions to the corrosion-mitigation world, I suspect that those who knew him best will remember him for these other qualities.

-- Warren Brand, Chicago Coatings Group


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating chemistry; Coating Materials; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Enviroline; Epoxy; Latin America; Linings; North America; Obituaries; Personnel

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