A Tribute to Terry L. Smith
A Tribute to Terry L. SmithA Fighter, A Friend (1941–2008)
STURTEVANT, WI (November 3, 2008) – Former Putzmeister America, Inc. president and CEO, Terry L. Smith, 66, passed away on September 12, 2008, after a long, courageous battle with cancer. He died peacefully while under hospice care at his summer home in Keego Harbor, Michigan.
A man with a strong personality, Terry was a fighter. He fought for his country during the Vietnam War; he fought for business development within the companies he managed; and he fought for his life when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004, four years after his retirement from Putzmeister America.
When his cancer was discovered, doctors gave Terry six months to live. Terry beat those odds with an uphill battle against the disease that lasted over four years. Although not an avid computer user, Terry quickly learned how to better use the Internet for researching new treatments to confront the fatal illness. His persistent attitude and loving wife Christine never let him give up hope for medical advances that would prolong his life, or even develop a cure.
Consequently, Terry underwent many prototype drugs and trial procedures that took him on a roller coaster ride of good days and bad until this past summer when modern medicine could do no more to help his body attack the disease. Although his body became weak, his mind remained strong, as he fully understood his final days were close at hand.
Terry loved his family, cared about his employees and treasured his friendships.
Born on December 15, 1941, Terry is the son of the late Don and Carlene Smith. He is survived by his wife Christine, his two daughters, Kathy Smith of Naples, Florida and Lori Smith of Denver, Colorado, and their mother Gail. He is also survived by his twin brother Jerry (Janet) of West Bloomfield, Michigan and Fort Meyers, Florida.
Growing up in Lansing, Michigan, Terry was a world champion backstroke swimmer—a record held during his high school years. A 1959 graduate of Lansing Eastern High School, Terry went on to attain his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University in 1964.
He was an officer in the U.S. Army and a veteran of the Vietnam War. Shortly after returning to the states, Terry began an aggressive career path that included various engineering, sales and executive roles in the diesel engine industry and construction equipment market that involved relocating to many different cities.
Aggressive Career Path
Starting in the late 1960s, Terry’s career in the engine industry started at Detroit Diesel, a division of GM. This was followed by Ford Motor Company, Onan Corporation and MWM Murphy. In 1984, Terry changed gears from engines to construction equipment, assuming the role as president of Simon Aerials, Inc., manufacturers of self-propelled aerial lifts. He would later accept an executive role at the Simon Access North America corporate organization. In 1994, he became president and CEO of Putzmeister America.
Contributions to Concrete Placing
Putzmeister founder Karl Schlecht found Terry’s entrepreneurial spirit, technical competence and vast management experience an ideal fit at Putzmeister America. After Karl hired him, Terry confidently took the initiative to advance the North American organization. He listened and responded to the market’s needs.
With his keen vision, Terry was highly instrumental in integrating the Multi-Z boom configuration on smaller sized boom pump models for the North American market, where it gained great acceptance. He saw the benefits of acquiring the Telebelt® truck-mounted telescopic conveyor line to complement the company’s product range, which in turn garnered new customers. He also pursued expansion of the North American placing boom and high pressure trailer pump program, believing the equipment’s technological features would broaden the market.
Under Terry’s direction, sales grew rapidly, the organization’s one-building facility expanded and more people were added. Today, the company’s dominant role in the concrete and material placing industry, large multi-faceted production facility and solid team of people are credited in part to Terry’s contributions in strengthening the company’s foundation.
Although retired, Terry remained an active member of the Putzmeister America Board of Directors with his sharp business mind always in high gear, even while he battled cancer.
A People Person
Terry cared for the employees under his direction. He was intuitive when hiring personnel and took a risk on people he strongly believed could achieve results; consequently he helped many launch their careers. Terry understood the value of sales and service personnel who traveled and sacrificed time from their families, to those in-house who worked hard to provide quality products and dedicated customer support. Terry’s belief was that everyone on the team was important, and so he made himself accessible with his open door policy and his consistent walks through the production department, talking to employees on a daily basis. As a result, Terry gained a deep respect and loyalty from those under his leadership.
On a Personal Note
Having established many valued relationships during his career, Terry treasured his friendships. Fond memories bring a smile to many who had the opportunity to better know this unique and generous individual. Terry had a lot of character, and he was a character with his witty sense of humor.
A hardworking man, Terry was typically the first one in the office. He believed you should work hard then play hard. He loved boating, golfing and the stock market. He enjoyed summers in Michigan on Cass Lake, and winters in Florida on the Gulf side.
As we sadly say farewell, we pay tribute to a remarkable man and the impact he had on people, companies and industries. Terry will be missed by those he came in contact with during his lifetime; people who respected him, who admired him and who loved him. We also applaud his courage during the greatest battle of his life, as he was a fighter to the very end. For him, the cancer did