Newton man was inventive and giving

01/10/2010 12:00 AM

01/10/2010 12:05 AM

Lloyd Smith brought the Screwball ratcheting screwdriver to market.

But the Newton businessman was also a philanthropist, marketer and pilot who earned his wings flying more than 30 bombing missions over Europe in World War II.

Mr. Smith died Dec. 29. He was 86.

Al Higdon, co-founder of Sullivan Higdon & Sink advertising agency, helped Mr. Smith and his Newton company, S/V Tool, market the Screwball, which Higdon said put Mr. Smith's company "on the map."

"It really caught on with the do-it-yourself market nationally," Higdon said. "Throughout this process, he led us, he followed us. And thanks to him it was just a great partnership. He was always humble, always inquisitive, always asking 'How can I do things better?' "

Higdon's business relationship with Mr. Smith led to a decades-long friendship.

"My thought is Lloyd is probably one of the most inventive entrepreneurs I have come across in 40 years — and that rivals Bill Lear (founder of Learjet)," Higdon said.

Mr. Smith was an engineer by vocation, graduating from Kansas State with a degree in mechanical engineering after serving in the Army Air Corps.

Sarah Brasted Smith, Mr. Smith's wife, said her husband was creative by nature.

Mr. Smith grew up on a farm near Great Bend and "they did a lot of creative things because it was the Depression and they had to," she said.

Besides inventing the Screwball — the rights of which were later sold to Sears for its Craftsmen tool line — Mr. Smith's company also invented and produced one of the first unbreakable ice scrapers for windshields. He sold the company in 1983 to Fiskars, Wescon and Center Industries.

Mr. Smith began his career at Krause Plow Corp. in Hutchinson, where from 1947 to 1955 he served in a variety of positions, including as president of Krause de Mexico in Mexico City. From there he went to work for Ford Motor Co. in its farm equipment division in Birmingham, Mich.

Four years later he came back to Kansas to serve as vice president for marketing at Hesston Corp.

Fred Berry, chairman of Berry Cos., met Mr. Smith through their work in the farm equipment industry.

"I certainly had a high regard for Lloyd," he said. "He was a gentleman."

While Berry said Mr. Smith was "an inventor, a genius really," he was as much a philanthropist "who did a lot for Newton."

Mr. Smith served as a director of the Newton Chamber of Commerce, First Bank of Newton and the former Axtell Christian Hospital.

Mr. Smith also paid for the commissioning of the Blue Sky sculpture in Newton and purchased the Warkentin Mill — now known as the Old Mill Plaza — just before it was scheduled to be demolished to preserve the building.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Smith is survived by three children, five grandchildren and two sisters.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at Newton's First Presbyterian Church, 900 Columbus.

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