Don Penniall beat “dilly-dilly” to the punch a long time ago.
Penniall was a creative, well-liked insurance professional who had the fortitude to launch his own firm later in life, those who remember him say.
Penniall died on Sept. 23, after having recently celebrated his 90th birthday with family and friends. He was preceded by his wife of 64 years, Bea, who died earlier this year.
In the insurance world, Penniall was best known as the founder of Monarch E&S Insurance Services, which is now a division of SPG Insurance Solutions.
Penniall, who had a long and successful career at numerous agencies, decided at age 58 to start his own business.
That business was built into a successful wholesaler that has perhaps become best known for its humorous advertisements, which often feature knights and royalty accompanied by catchy, funny slogans.
The ads were decades ahead of the popular “dilly-dilly” television ads, aimed at selling Bud Light to audiences with a twist of royal humor.
“Long Live the Royal Treatment,” one ad states, featuring Penniall in a royal red cape and accoutrements and current Monarch CEO Derek Borisoff in armor and chainmail.
Other Monarch employees also appeared in the ads. Sharron Johnson, a senior underwriter in the firm’s Simi Valley office, stood at attention with armor and broadsword in an ad with the slogan “Ready for Battle.”
“Sharron is here for you. She’s here to find the carrier you need to deliver your quote. She’ll fight for the best coverage at the best rates on these commercial lines,” the ad states, listing numerous lines including general liability, builders risk and property liability. “Still looking for arsenal? Look no further. Sharron is ready.”
While humor in advertisements may not often be considered the best way to speak to clients in the often cut-and-dried business-to-business world, it seemed to work out well for Monarch.
The ads have been running for nearly five decades.
Borisoff, who took over the firm in 2001 when Penniall retired, recalled how the Monarch name and the ideas of knights valiantly serving royalty appealed to Penniall, who had a British background and an acumen for customer service.
“I think the ads are very important to our success as far as our trademarking goes,” Borisoff said. “Don was a big believer in advertising.”
Borisoff also remembered Penniall for his integrity, a trait that he believed served him well as a wholesaler.
“Don is the most honest guy I’ve ever worked with in the industry,” Borisoff said. “A true gentleman. Loved his family, loved his employees, just a stalwart in our industry.”
Penniall left a legacy beyond advertising and a successful insurance firm. His son, Richard Penniall, 60, has been with Monarch for more than 30 years. He’s currently a senior vice president at Monarch. Penniall’s other son, David, is a successful financial planner.
Penniall worked for a number of retailers and wholesalers before starting up his own business, including Sayre & Toso, Clinton L. Booth, Bayly, Martin & Fay and Compass Insurance Group.
“He put in his hours,” Richard Penniall said. “He kind of risked everything at that point.”
It was 1986 when Penniall took the risk to start a business, and he soon got his first break when he got an appointment with Scottsdale Insurance Co.
“That was really vital,” Richard Penniall said.
Those who best knew him as a professional recounted Penniall’s “strong Midwest work ethic,” which came from his upbringing and childhood experiences.
Penniall was born Aug. 4, 1928, in Geneva, Ill. to George and Gladys, who migrated to the U.S. from England after World War I.
Penniall was the youngest of three boys in a family that had to work hard and be grateful for small things in the era of the Great Depression.
Penniall moved to New York following high school to attend the State University of New York Maritime College at Fort Schuyler. He entered the military and was stationed in San Diego, Calif., after graduating from college. That’s where he eventually met and married Beatrice E. Paulson in 1953.
He served in the U.S. Navy briefly at the end of the Korean Conflict, and throughout the remainder of his service he was in the Merchant Marines, traveling extensively.
He left the Merchant Marines in the late 1950s to start a family, first moving to Whittier and then to Glendale.
He is survived by his two sons, David and Richard, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be held at the Christ Episcopal Church on Oct. 20 at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Christ Episcopal Church, 1114 Ninth St., Coronado, CA, 92118; or Rotary Club of Coronado, P.O. Box 180487, Coronado, CA, 92178.
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