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Friends share memories of Fahlgren

PARKERSBURG — Friends in the business community remembered the life and legacy of Herbert Smoot Fahlgren and the impact he had on the area.

Fahlgren, 89, passed away Friday surrounded by family at his home on Mill Run Farm in Parkersburg. A graveside service for friends and family was held Tuesday at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Parkersburg.

Fahlgren was born in Parkersburg on Aug. 17, 1930, and was a lifelong resident of the community. He graduated from Parkersburg High School in 1948 and subsequently earned his undergraduate degree in 1953, attending both the University of Virginia and Marietta College.

Following his service in the U.S. Army, he returned to Parkersburg and went to work for Smoot Outdoor Advertising, but within two founded Fahlgren Advertising in 1962 and grew it to a successful business.

Holmes “Butch” Shaver, a businessman and former Wood County Commissioner, said Fahlgren “was a dear friend.”

“He was an icon here, no question about it,” he said. “He accomplished so much in his lifetime, building his business to one of the largest independent advertising agencies in the country.

“He was very active in the community early on.”

Fahlgren was a member of the board of West Virginia University Foundation, a director of United Bankshares, a deacon and elder of the First Presbyterian Church, President of the Wood County Airport Authority, involved with the Boy Scouts of America and a member of the West Virginia Roundtable. He was honored by the Parkersburg Chamber of Commerce as the 1958 Outstanding Young Man, the Elk’s Citizen of the Year, the Jaycee’s Young Man of the Year Award, and in 2005 was the first-ever recipient of the Lorenelle White Lifetime Achievement Award honoring his significant contributions to West Virginia, its people and its progress.

“He was very instrumental in growing the Jaycees in the community,” Shaver said. “He contributed to so many things.

“It is just countless how many lives he touched and what he was able to do in this community.”

Shaver said one of the things he remembered most was Fahlgren’s way of not taking direct credit for many of the things he did, letting the results speak for themselves.

Fahlgren would rather see the things that needed done to get done, rather than take credit for it, Shaver said.

“He was that kind of guy,” he said. “He didn’t want credit for anything.

“He was a real giver.”

Shaver said Fahlgren was a “bright , driven and caring person.”

Fahlgren was respected by many throughout the community and the state. Retired West Virginia Football Coach Don Nehlen and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, daughter of Gov. Arch Moore, attended his service on Tuesday.

“They were great friends of Smoot,” Shaver said. “He is that kind of guy that people had respect for to take their time and come to pay their respects.”

Richard Adams, president of United Bank, said Fahlgren was one of the most successful businessmen in the history of Parkersburg.

“He was truly a legend in the advertising business,” he said. “He was one of the top business people in the state.

“He was a great friend of mine. He was a tremendous person.”

Adams contributes Fahlgren’s success to finding a balance in life. Fahlgren was a person of faith who loved his family and friends.

“He believed in making a difference in people’s lives,” Adams said. “You can be successful in business unless you surround yourself with good people and he was able to do that.”

Fahlgren was a great salesman, whether it was bringing in talent or bringing in customers to his agency.

“He was one of a kind,” Adams said.

In his contributions to the community, Fahlgren was instrumental in bringing jet service to the airport and supporting a number of charities.

“He was definitely involved in making a difference in the town,” Adams said. “I knew Smoot for over 40 years and he was one of the most successful people who ever lived in Parkersburg.”

Tom Crooks of Stonewall Marketing Group in Marietta had worked for Fahlgren for around 20 years before leaving to start Stonewall. When he left he was the president of Fahlgren’s agency having started working accounts.

“Smoot was a bigger-than-life person in so many different ways,” Crooks said. “He was amazing with clients.

“He always brought a smile to everyone’s face, had a great sense of humor that was contagious.”

Fahlgren was well respected by the people they worked with and admired by about everyone he came into contact with, Crooks said adding Fahlgren always surrounded himself with good people and bringing outstanding people into the company.

“To me it is an amazing story and I am so proud to have played a very small part in that,” Crooks said.

Fahlgren built his business to where they had offices nationwide in a variety of cities, including Tampa, Atlanta, Charlotte, New York City, Columbus and Cincinnati, among others.

“It is just an amazing success story,” Crooks said.

The Fahlgren agency became a leading agency for McDonald’s and worked with General Electric, Borg Warner, Napa Auto Parts and others.

Crooks said Fahlgren was able to attract these companies and build the business. At one time, there were over 100 people working in the Parkersburg office.

At one point Fahlgren sold the company and a few years later bought it back which Crooks said was something “only Smoot could do.”

“He was an amazing guy,” he said.

Fahlgren inspired people and brought out their best.

“He had this magnetic personality about him that drew people in,” Crooks said. “You just want to be around him, because he made everybody better.

“His is one of the greatest success stories in Parkersburg’s history.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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