Obituary: Richard C. Trimble / Ad man designed famous 'I Like Ike' button
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At first, taking up the family business wasn't in the cards for Richard Trimble.
In his early 20s, an explosion in a Pittsburgh chemical factory poisoned him and sullied a promising engineering career that had barely even started.
He grew ill in October 1944, and after a year of therapy, started working alongside his father at the family's specialty advertising business. It proved a fortuitous partnership: together, dad and son would create one of the most iconic campaign buttons in American history: "I Like Ike."
Mr. Trimble of Hopwood, Fayette County, died Wednesday at the age of 91.
A native of Brookline, Mr. Trimble was valedictorian of South Hills High School and earned a degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University. Rick Trimble said his father was always interested in science and kept several pets growing up, including an owl, snakes and a guinea pig named Rasputin.
When Mr. Trimble found he could no longer work in the chemical field, he managed nationwide mail orders for political buttons at A.G. Trimble Co., founded by his father, Arthur Garfield Trimble, in 1913.
According to the company website, a Pittsburgh newspaper reporter in 1948 asked the Trimbles to create a campaign button for Dwight D. Eisenhower -- four years before he would be elected president. The reporter couldn't decide on a catchy phrase, but told the men "... I sure do like Ike."
The elder Mr. Trimble seized the moment, responding "That's your slogan," and his son designed the badge.
"They sold a lot throughout the years, but the 'I Like Ike' was the one they're most famous for," Rick Trimble said, noting their story has been authenticated.
He also remembers when the family would travel to Democrat and Republican conventions to market the buttons.
"That was our vacation," Rick Trimble said. "We met presidential candidates, celebrities. I mean, it was the greatest time."
Richard Trimble owned the family business until he retired in the early 1990s. Even after that, he would travel to regional events to sell excess buttons to collectors before his health declined.
The Mt. Lebanon company, now owned by Rick (his sister, Sandy, works there too), will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. Rick Trimble said his father brought creativity to the business -- though the "I Like Ike" button's simple red, white and blue design perhaps didn't demonstrate his talent.
"There wasn't much to it," he said. "It was very uncreative in a sense."
Among his family and friends, Richard Trimble will also be remembered as a man of tremendous faith. He was a member of the United Methodist Church and Jumonville Christian Camp and Retreat Center.
"His Christian faith was a very, very strong, integral part of what he did," said Jumonville president and longtime friend Larry Beatty.
For example, Rick said, his father wasn't the kind to do anything for a sale. "He didn't want people to buy it if it wasn't the right thing for them."
Added Mr. Beatty: "He was very relationship-orientated. He would probably rather have someone as a friend than as a business client."
Mr. Trimble leaves behind his second wife, Wilma; son Rick of Brookline, daughters Sandra Kuska of Bridgeville and Mary Sue O'Brien of Rumson, N.J.; stepdaughter Ginnie Baier of Waukesha, Wis.; brothers Malcolm of Murrysville and Arthur of Webster, N.Y.; and several grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Asbury United Methodist Church in Uniontown.
First Published December 3, 2012 12:00 am