AMHERST, N.Y.—Francis O'Connor, former chairman of Harwick Chemical Corp. and a veteran of more than four decades in the rubber industry, died March 27 at the age of 91.
After serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II from 1944-46, he graduated from Canisius College with a bachelor's in chemistry in 1948. He received a master's in organic chemistry from the school in 1952.
O'Connor went to work for Linde Air Products as a chemist in its research and development department. While there, he worked closely with the Harwick organization, which served as a distributor of one of Linde's products.
He joined Harwick (now Harwick Standard Distribution Corp.) in 1965 as manager of new product development. He moved up to technical director in 1967 and later became vice president of technical.
O'Connor was one of 15 corporate officers who in 1971 re-purchased Harwick from Chemetron Corp., which had bought the firm three years earlier. He became president and CEO in 1984 and later served as chairman until he retired in 1990.
O'Connor also was active in the ACS Rubber Division from when he started in the rubber industry until well after his retirement. He held countless roles, and served as Rubber Division chairman in 1976. Dubbed as "Father O'Connor," he also served as the unofficial "chaplain" of the division, leading the group in prayer at many functions over the years.
Ernie Pouttu, current Harwick president and CEO, said he always will remember O'Connor for his smile and laughter.
"He was truly kind-hearted and one of the good guys in life," Pouttu said. "His rock solid Christian faith has certainly led him to heaven where he joins others from our industry who have passed. Fran had a life full of family and friends, and always kept all of us up to date on all that was happening with his and his wife Rosemary's annual Christmas card writings. He will be missed but always remembered."
Besides his wife, O'Connor is survived by daughters Kathleen (Marvin) Scheer and Mary Patricia (V. Paul Jr.) Harger; son Thomas (Janice Wilson); six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to People Inc., 1219 N. Forest Road, Box 9033, Williamsville, N.Y., 14231.