“Hey, you’ll get a kick out of this…”
This was a common greeting when Michael Ness met a friend and began a story.
Michael, who passed away Dec. 30, 2017, at age 61, was one of the most influential people in our industry since joining it in 1990, yet he may not be that well known as he generally was working in the background rather than seeking the limelight. If you had the opportunity to meet him, you would certainly remember him as a warm, always smiling, low-key guy.
He began his career in pharmaceutical sales and marketing and held senior management positions at several optical manufacturing companies during his career. From 1990 through January 2001, Michael worked for Essilor beginning as the vice president of marketing of Varilux Corp., where he led the team that launched Varilux Comfort. He later served as vice president of strategic marketing for Essilor of America and Essilor International in France, where his role was to guide product strategy and product management.
Bob Colucci, recently retired from Essilor of America, said: “We met in 1990 when Michael joined what was then Varilux Corp. as the VP of marketing and I was the VP of sales. While there are many stories I could tell both business related and personal, I believe the highlight of our time together was the launch of Varilux Comfort in 1994. I believe, and I know Michael did as well, that it was one of – if not the – most successful launches of any product in our industry. Michael was a great friend and always had a smile on his face, as well as a story to tell. He will truly be missed by all who knew him.”
From 2002 through February 2009, Michael served as vice president of sales and marketing for VISION EASE. During his tenure, Michael led the sales and marketing team that launched LifeRx photochromic lenses and Coppertone polarized sunglass lenses, both foundations of VISION EASE’s current business.
Michael had much to be proud of, but one would never know it, as he was a humble, gracious man. A fact noted by many.
Jay Lusignan, director, marketing communications for VISION EASE, noted: “Michael Ness was the VP, sales and marketing, when I joined VISION EASE. What was special about Michael was his warm personality. Regardless of your position, Michael always took the time to know an individual personally and make a connection. After he left VISION EASE, I would bump into Michael periodically at a vision show, and he wouldn’t miss a beat, picking right up where he left off, always asking about personal lives, then business.”
Michael joined HOYA in 2009 as the director of new product development. In 2010, he was named president of HOYA Lens of America, a division of HOYA Vision Care dedicated to serving the independent and commercial distribution channels. Michael’s depth of knowledge and ever positive outlook helped the company grow. From 2015 through 2017, Michael changed focus to vice president of strategic marketing with a keen eye for new technical capabilities to contribute to the culture of innovation at HOYA.
Barney Dougher, president, HOYA Vision Care, fondly recalled Michael’s storytelling: “When Michael joined HOYA I had the chance to work with him on the same team. His skills made me a better executive, and his candor kept all of us at HOYA grounded in taking care of our customers and their business. Daily, the executive team would go to lunch, and we actually looked forward to, ‘Hey, you’ll get a kick out of this… ‘ Michael’s ability to tell a story was like no others I have ever met, and the detail of the story made you feel like you personally experienced the entire timeline start to finish. Many times, Michael would start the story when we got into the car to go to lunch, and many times he would still be telling the story when we returned from lunch.”
Rick Tinson, vice president of HOYA Vision Care, recalled Michael’s passion for cycling: “Because Michael loved to bike and was an avid fan of the Tour de France, we at HOYA relived the event daily by every mile. I knew that every July, I would get a call from Michael on a Saturday morning when the Tour de France would hit the Basque mountain stages. We’d laugh hysterically at the crazy naked guys in ‘man-kinis’ that always showed up running alongside the leaders. That joke just never got old. Michael’s love of the sport was deep in his heart, and he participated in one of the most grueling bike races in Texas: the ‘Hotter ‘n Hell 100.’ “
For Michael, who is survived by his wife Dora and daughter Hannah, it was always about what made somebody else special, and he was part of that specialness. We’ll all miss hearing: “Hey, you’ll get a kick out of this… “