(Remarks taken from Eulogy by Rollin E. Wehman, President of Riverside Center)
Engineer, Naval Architect, Scholar, Entrepreneur, Inventor, Visionary, Patron of the Arts, Benefactor of the Sciences, Caring Husband, Father, Grandfather, Friend…..
All of these describe the extraordinary individual known as Henry Smith McKann.
Smith McKann was abundantly gifted and those gifts were manifest with his passion for excellence and a zest for life.
He had gifts of brilliance and creativity, which enabled him to find “a better way” of doing things. This is evidenced by his accumulation of over 75 patents granted in a variety of disciplines – from manufacturing to aviation – submarine submersible water heaters to steel commercial doors to counter rotary wing helicopters.
He was sensitive to needs and moods of others. He displayed his gift of benevolence on countless occasions that most never knew. He did not boost of his good works, rather letting them speak for themselves. For his employees at General Products Company, he established a model profit sharing plan, and his endowments to the Arts, including Riverside Center, were liberal.
He was endowed with a gift of natural elegance. You felt in the presence of royalty when in the presence of Smith and Catherine McKann, awed by an elegance from them both that was not in the least artificial, but genuine.
Smith McKann could discuss policy with United States Senators, yet be equally comfortable solving personal issues with his General Products employees. He left no doubt where he stood on issues, and he was usually right. He also knew how to influence others, yet he always made you comfortable in his presence.
Most importantly, Smith McKann had that priceless gift of integrity, which made his astounding business success in this world all the more extraordinary. His character was unquestioned, and he kept his word, for it was synonymous with his honor.
The fruits of his creativity and that steadfast set of values Smith McKann held throughout his life, will remain, and live on in each of us who shared conversations and meals, golf, tennis and billiards, opinions and counter-opinions, business strategies, and treatises on how to balance the federal budget.
James Weldon Johnson, whose words have provided comfort for over 150 years, likens death to going home to the origins from which we came, after a temporary stay here on earth. On the eve of October 20, 2004, it is quite possible that the Lord may have needed another Chairman of the Board and thus called Smith McKann home to fill the position.