In Memoriam: Marty Giles

Industry Mourns Passing of Leader, Visionary

The fire sprinkler industry lost a long-time leader and visionary with the passing of Martin L. “Marty” Giles, chairman of VSC Fire & Security, Ashland, Virginia. Giles, 70, died Tuesday, May 5, 2015, after a valiant battle with cancer.

Giles entered the fire sprinkler industry as a teenager, working part-time at Virginia Sprinkler Company (VSC), which had been founded by his father in 1958. After graduating college, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in an Aviation Assault Helicopter Detachment in Vietnam during 1967 and 1968, earning a Purple Heart in the Tet Offensive when enemy forces fired on his base. Giles rejoined VSC in 1968, and in 1972 he purchased the company, serving as its president until 2001 and then as chairman of the board until his death.

Giles became a contractor member of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) in 1982, shortly after its formation, and he helped establish the Virginia Chapter. He was elected to AFSA’s national Board of Directors in 1993 and served 15 years, including six years as treasurer and two as chairman of the board.

Recognized for his vision and strategic analysis, Giles led his company through years of significant growth. He built VSC from a local fire sprinkler installation company, with annual sales of approximately $3 million in 1971, to VSC Fire & Security Inc., a multi-state business reaching from Maryland to Florida that offers additional services such as inspection, in-house pipe fabrication, safety, alarm and detection, with annual revenue exceeding $100 million. In 2010, VSC was among the first contracting firms in the country to earn AFSA’s Quality Contractor designation, shortly after the QC program was established to recognize companies that have documented their commitment in specific key areas of corporate responsibility.

During his terms as treasurer and chairman of the AFSA Board of Directors, Giles’ leadership helped to advance membership benefits as well as the financial security of the Association. In 2010, at its convention in Providence, Rhode Island, AFSA recognized Giles’ contributions to the industry with its most prestigious honor, the Henry S. Parmelee Award.

AFSA President Steve Muncy, who worked closely with Giles during his terms as treasurer and board chairman, remarked: “I had the pleasure of working with Marty Giles for over 15 years as a member of the AFSA Board of Directors. In his six years as treasurer Marty made significant recommendations for improvements in the AFSA investment policies and guided the investment of AFSA reserves. This made a significant difference in the growth of our ‘rainy day fund’ that was critical to our continued member service during the recession. As AFSA Chairman, Marty guided the organization with a steady hand as AFSA grew and expanded our services to members. All AFSA members and all involved in the fire sprinkler industry owe this man significant gratitude for what he did for our industry. His selection as recipient of the Parmelee Award was much deserved.”

Jack Viola, P.E., one of AFSA’s founding members and a former chairman of the board, remarked: “Marty was truly an exceptional person. He enjoyed a good joke, and he was always ready to unselfishly share his knowledge and wisdom in the most humble way. He was a great friend to our great association and will always be remembered for his thoughtful comments pertaining to many important discussions. When he spoke, everyone stopped what they were doing and listened. He will be so missed as he joins those many other great sprinkler industry leaders who passed before him.”

In addition to his influence on the fire sprinkler industry, Giles affected other lives through his involvement as a volunteer leader for many non-profit associations including the Hospital Hospitality House, the Hanover Education Foundation, Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic and the Hanover Tavern Foundation. He was also a long-time member and a past director of Hermitage Country Club and was an avid golfer.

Marty Giles was preceded in death by his parents, Louise and Roland Giles; and brother, Roland “Bud” Giles Jr. He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Patty; three children, Matt Giles, Jeff Giles (Nicole) and Jenny Henkel (Max); five grandchildren; and two sisters, Faye McGinley (Ernie) and Patsy Fulk (Richard). Donations may be made in his memory to the Hospital Hospitality House, P.O. Box 10090, Richmond, VA 23240 or at or to the charity of your choice. 

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