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Chris Craft Death

Old 12-09-2002, 08:20 AM
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Harsen Smith, who built the family firm of Chris-Craft into one of the largest and most respected leisure boat manufacturers in the world, died in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday at the age of 94.

As chairman of the board until the company's sale in 1960, Mr. Smith led a massive post-war expansion that simultaneously brought mass production to the industry while maintaining a high level of quality.
"He was a legend," said Steve Heese, the current president of Chris-Craft. "Two generations grew up on those boats."

In May 1959, Mr. Smith's faced graced a Time magazine cover recognizing "the man who perhaps more than any other put the U.S. family afloat."

His vision was to turn motorboats from a pure luxury item into an affordable expense for middle-income families.

He added amenities that would make it attractive for outings by an entire family instead of simply sport enthusiasts.

At one time, the Chris-Craft empire, founded in 1874 by Christopher Columbus Smith, had 5,000 employees and 12 production plants, including one in Pompano Beach.

It was for a while the largest single purchaser of mahogany in the country.

Mr. Smith maintained a home in South Florida for half his life, Heese said.

At 8 years old, Mr. Smith began sweeping out the boathouse of the firm started by his grandfather. He played Big 10 football before leaving the University of Michigan to join the company in 1928. He was integral to the operation during World War II when the firm produced landing craft for the military, including vessels used in the Normandy invasion.

After the war, he gradually took over control of the firm from his father, Jay Smith.

Mr. Smith is survived by three children, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Services will be private.
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Old 12-09-2002, 08:55 AM
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How sad.
Mr. Smith built a great boat and a respected name in boating.
Chris Craft was, in it's day, the top line cruiser to own.
My parents had an early sixties 36' cruiser. I know it was built after they changed hands but it was one hell of a boat. All wood construction and very, very strong.
One night my father accidently beached ours (long story). She was completely out of the water, high and dry. After refloating we took her to the marina, had her hauled out to make repairs to props, shafts and struts. While she was out Dad hired a surveyor to look for hidden damage. None was found. We had her for another four seasons (total of 6) with no troubles.
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