William Sheppard, former president of Oaks, Pa.-based Peerless Paper Mills, died on June 15, 2011 after a lengthy illness. He was 91.

Peerless Paper Mills began as Peerless Manufacturing Company in 1898, a manufacturer of toilet paper and similar products. In 1911 Peerless Manufacturing moved to a larger facility in Norristown, Pa. In 1923 Peerless Manufacturing cancelled its original charter and reorganized as Peerless Paper Mills, Inc. and moved its location to Oaks, where it remained.

William Sheppard, a nephew of the company's lead representative in the 1930's, Isaac J. Sheppard, began driving a delivery truck for Peerless Paper Mills in 1946. After advancing into sales, he forged new territories by increasing Peerless' reputation and profits with a formula that relied on product excellence and personal integrity.

William Sheppard was elected to Peerless' Board of Directors in 1958 and continued on into the early 1970's. In 1974, the American market experienced a vast paper shortage reducing Peerless to about 10 employees. One of them was William Sheppard. In 1974, Fred T. Cage, then Peerless' president, considered it wise to sell his interests in the company to William Sheppard. He was then elected president, moved the company out of the converting business and into the master distribution of wholesale paper products and janitorial supplies.

Because of Peerless' customer base, William Sheppard felt that the transition to redistributor, though a bold move, was fairly natural. Peerless retained its historic strength in commercial paper products after having been a leading manufacturer for so long. William Sheppard’s vision made it easier for the company to establish relationships with other quality manufacturers and became a master distributor of a full range of janitorial supplies. Continuing to grow through 1985, Peerless built a 50,000 square foot warehouse in Savage, Md., to serve the southern reaches of its market. Still expanding through the late 1980's, and with an increase in employees and distribution vehicles, Peerless built its present home not far from its original Oaks, Pa., site. This state-of-the-art warehouse and corporate headquarters was just the beginning of more ground breaking.

In 1995, Peerless expanded west into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and even further expansion in 1996 with the opening of its Cleveland, Ohio location. A change in Peerless' leadership in 1997 saw William Sheppard become Chairman of the Board while his son William J. Sheppard took over the responsibilities of President. In 1998, Peerless celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. William Sheppard retired as CEO of Peerless Paper Mills in 2000.