By Jeff Harrington

DSC_0095I paid tribute to my parents in my previous blog post and let you know some details that explain how important they have been to Harrington Group’s success over the past 30 years. This post will tell you about the woman who loves and supports me, and therefore, Harrington Group, unconditionally.

I met Kathy Raleigh about half way through my senior year of college, in Worcester, MA. I was attracted to her because she was beautiful, smart, and practical, the trifecta of qualities in a potential girlfriend as far as I was concerned at the time. I fell for her because of the wonderful person that she is.

I graduated with a MS in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Fire Protection Engineering and took a job in Montgomery, Alabama. Kathy graduated with a nursing degree a year later in 1978, and I flew up to get married and drive her old three-tone (brown, white, and rust) Dodge Swinger and her few possessions back to Montgomery. Kathy was actually willing to marry me and relocate her life to Montgomery all the way from Worcester, MA. That should tell you something about her character right there. Or, she was so crazy about me she was not thinking straight! I am sure that was it.

I took a promotion and we moved to Atlanta in 1980, with Kathy nine-months pregnant with our first child. I changed employers a year and a half later and again six months after that. Then, nine years after I graduated, with two young boys (6 years and 1-1/2 years), I resigned and started Harrington Group in June, 1986.

My moment of inspiration struck me like a bolt of lightning in May, 1986, as I was approaching my car in the parking lot after a very successful project meeting with a client of my employer. The drive home was about 30 minutes. By the time I arrived home, I had decided to resign from my job, start my own business in fire protection engineering consulting, and had the entire business plan mapped out in my head.

I walked in the house and found Kathy in our family room chatting with her mother, who was in town visiting. I sat down and when there was an opening in the conversation, announced that I had decided to quit my nice secure job and start a business – in the next 30 days or so. Kathy asked me to explain the details. Then, she said, “ok, you have my full support”. Just like that. My mother-in-law’s reaction was different, but she is very proud of me now!

Kathy’s “yes” came without hesitation, even though she knew it meant she would be going to work full-time instead of part-time, as we had planned since the birth of our second child, and sooner than planned.

Then, the next 30 years happened. I am pleased to be able to report that Harrington Group, Inc. is a very successful company with a strong global reputation that Kathy and I are both quite proud of. I will skip the details of the struggle and sacrifice, but both were enormous and were required of each of us in equal measure in my opinion: my long hours; my absence; our lack of money; our abundance of debt; the emotional stress; the hopelessness at times; and much more.

Kathy never once told me to quit or even suggested it. She just believed in me, supported me, and loved me unconditionally. She was the magic. Without Kathy, it would have been impossible for me to succeed, and it is a certainty that Harrington Group would not be the successful company that it is today. Thank you Kath, with all of my heart!