Gerard C. Smith passed away at Crosslands on March 3, 2019.
Mr. Smith was born in Vienna, Austria. He came to the United States at 14 and finished high school in New York. He entered Purdue University at 17, graduating following military service with a master’s degree in chemical engineering. At 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a commissioned officer in the field artillery with the 78th Division in Germany.
Following graduation from college, Mr. Smith held jobs with Merck & Co., Mathieson Chemical Co. and Ameropa, A.G. Shortly after joining Mathieson Chemical in 1950, the company loaned Mr. Smith for a one-year term as a civilian technician to the Army Chemical Corps. In this capacity, Mr. Smith participated in the atomic weapons tests conducted in Nevada during the autumn of 1951, where he was responsible for studies designed to correlate susceptibility to contamination with surface parameters. While he was invited by the Chemical Corps to extend his service so as to participate in the first hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific, Mr. Smith chose instead to return to Mathieson. He subsequently left Mathieson in 1954 to work for Ameropa, A.G., a family company in Basel, Switzerland. There, Mr. Smith received his first exposure to international business, a field that he stayed with for the rest of his working career.
In 1955, Mr. Smith joined Hercules, Inc. in Wilmington, DE in its “international department.” Mr. Smith over the years traveled extensively for Hercules covering many countries and every continent. In 1966, while stationed in The Hague, Holland, he led the Hercules team to its participation at the Moscow International Chemical Exhibition, which was a sort of “break-through” event at the time. Besides Holland, Mr. Smith was also stationed in Tokyo, Japan, Taipei, Taiwan and Sao Paulo, Brazil. While in Taiwan, Mr. Smith as CEO helped launch Taiwan Polypropylene Co., a joined venture with Chinese partners which became a very successful business for Hercules. After two and a half years in Taipei, Mr. Smith was transferred to Brazil as general manager and area director for Hercules, which at the time was launching an ambitious investment program in that country. These activities involved major plant projects for polypropylene, polypropylene film and pine chemical derivatives.
Mr. Smith resided in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for over eight years, during which time he acquired fluency in Portuguese. He was fascinated by the task of implanting world-scale, cutting edge chemical factories in regions that still largely lingered in a past age. In his work, he believed in being “ahead of the curve” and prided himself on his intimate knowledge of all aspects of the projects and operations under his responsibility.
He retired from Hercules in 1986 shortly after returning to Wilmington from Brazil. In his retirement, Mr. Smith enjoyed studying a broad range of subjects, notably archeology, religious history and cosmology. He had a profound respect and thirst for knowledge, which he felt to be the necessary underpinning in man’s quest for the spiritual.
Mr. Smith is survived by his wife, Laura, whom he met and married in 1977 in Taipei, Taiwan, prior to moving from there to his assignment in Brazil.