The industry lost a mentor, friend and gentleman when Jim Duhamell died March 1. He was 71.

Duhamell was the founder of Duhamell Associates, a manufacturer’s agent based in the Dallas area. He entered the pool business in the 1960s, heading the pool division of a chemical company in Arizona. In the early 1970s, Duhamell moved to Miami and started working for distributor Universal Pool Products.

The relationships he forged with vendors while at Universal provided the opportunity to move to Texas in 1975 and start Duhamell Associates, repping American Pool Products and other lines.

“In my opinion [he] ran a very successful and well-respected manufacturer’s agents rep company,” said Kurt Duhamell, Jim’s son. “To the day he unfortunately passed away, Duhamell Associates continued forward, representing many quality manufacturers, and it will continue to move forward.”

Going forward, the five employees of Duhamell Associates will run the firm. Regional manager Darrell Plemons stepped into the general manager role after Duhamell’s passing and will lead the firm. Duhamell’s wife, Phyllis, is the sole owner.

“When I first went to work for him in 1994, I was a young kid and had no clue what I was doing,” Plemons said. “He would spend the next 20 years investing his life into mine and becoming one of the most significant influences in my life personally and professionally.”

Duhamell recognized talent and stayed in touch with people during the course of his entire career. The customers he sold to often became friends.

“Jim had the uncanny ability of making everyone he met feel that he was their best friend and they were his,” said friend and customer Edward “Ed” Campbell, general manager of Jet Line Pool Products, based in Coppell, Texas. “He was the most honest, genuine man that I’ve met in 40 years in the pool business.”

The two shared an affinity for golf, playing countless rounds together, and they were planning a trip this year to the Masters Tournament.

Duhamell also continued to guide former employees long after they’d moved on.

“Over the years, I’ve thanked him many times for hiring me and guiding me,” said Dave Cook, whom Duhamell hired in 1985. Cook, who is now a group vice president at Covington, La.-based PoolCorp, added, “Without him having faith in me to join his team, providing integrity, leadership and business acumen, my career in the pool industry would have been much different. Jim was a boss and a good friend. The industry was blessed to have him as he made a great impression on so many.”

A memorial service held for Duhamell showed the impact he had as almost 250 people arrived from all over the country to share memories of him.

“You didn’t have to be a big client to get the best from my dad,” Kurt Duhamell said. “That’s what I may have learned more than anything: Everybody is important, and you always show a friendly face and make that connection with people. It does more for your business; it does more for your friendship. And that was an everlasting message I learned from my dad.”