KILMARNOCK—Robert Frederick Smith, 79, of The Lakes at Port St. Lucie, Florida, and Kilmarnock passed away Tuesday, January 31, 2017.
Bob was born in Westfield, N.J., to Frances Mueller Smith and Frank Smith. He grew up in Westfield where, after graduating high school, he served as a tool maker’s apprentice for Bell Labs. He attended night school at Rutgers University, served seven years in the Coast Guard Reserve and served for more than 20 years as a volunteer fireman.
Bob enjoyed a lifelong love of the water which came from time spent with his father. Boating came naturally and Bob was just as happy rowing, sailing, or operating a powerboat. He was also an avid water and snow skier.
In 1959, Bob joined a small business run by Roger Lehman. Starting as sales manager, Bob helped to engineer what would become the legendary Lehman Ford marine diesel. This engine became the standard propulsion for many boats. By the time he left Lehman, Bob was executive vice president and managing director.
In 1981, Bob purchased Hale Marine, a marine distributor in Warsaw, and founded American Diesel Corp in Kilmarnock.
Bob became active with the Marine Trawler Owners Association (MTOA) for which he served 16 years on the board of directors. He wrote quarterly columns in their news magazine and conducted classes at events across the country. Bob’s desire to educate boat owners and to share both his experiences and expertise earned him nicknames including “The Guru of Diesel Engines” and “Diesel Bob.”
He is survived by his loving wife of 50 years, Gail Dockery Smith; and sister Jeanne Holback (Edward) of Scotch Plains, N.J., as well as several nieces and nephews. He was father to son, Brian Smith (Mary Jane Bolling) of Kilmarnock and daughter, Wendy Maxwell (Marc) of Oviedo, Fla. He was loving grandfather to Ian and Sadie Maxwell of Oviedo, Fla.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Connie Johnson of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Shirley Robertson (Bill) of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Riggs Funeral Home, Forked River, N.J.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to a local fire department.