Vernon Lewis (V.L.) Smithers (1890-1973)
1985 LTK (Leland T. Kintzele) Distinguished Service Award
Presented Posthumously to Vernon Lewis (V.L.) Smithers
Vernon Lewis (V.L.) Smithers was born on July 22, 1890. His career, and eventual path to the floral industry, began in the 1930’s, when he was the owner and operator of V.L. Smithers Laboratories, an independent testing laboratory for the tire and battery industries in Akron, Ohio. Sometime after this beginning, V.L. realized the strong desire to be a manufacturer – to make something and sell it!
Smithers’ exposure to foam products occurred in the early 1950’s when his laboratory was doing work for the Union Carbide Company. Neither Carbide, nor another firm, who subsequently purchased the molds and equipment, were able to find a suitable use for the light-weight, crushable foam. Seeing this challenge as an opportunity, Smithers purchased the equipment determined to find a use for the large blocks of foam it produced.
The start of a new business endeavor was born of pure coincidence. Smithers happened to be glancing at a floral arrangement he had given his wife, and thought, “If I could find a way to get water into foam, perhaps it would be used as a base for floral arrangements.” Eureka! – OASIS® floral foam emerged. Following the manufacturing of the product in his laboratory, Smithers established the first production facility in Kent, Ohio in 1953.
Those who knew him stress that Mr. Smithers was not a flamboyant person; he did not want to be in the limelight. He was, rather, a great believer in the industry’s organizations and their activities, working hard to ensure that they had his company and its employees’ support. Smithers was respected for his concern for others and his natural friendliness.
His industry involvement included membership in SAF, Teleflora, FTD, and of course, WF&FSA. Active in community affairs as well, Smithers was a member of the Masonic Order, Knights Templer, Rotary Club and the Methodist Church.
(L-R) Sons: Robert, William, (V.L. seated), Theodore
He spent a total of 20 years dedicated to the advancement of the floral industry. Smithers was a great believer in the investment of his own time in its organization and people. The company continues to be one of the largest supporters of the people and associations which make the floral industry what it is today; a philosophy handed down by V.L. Smithers and his successors, which stressed the value of returning the same kind of support which has made the industry and companies that serve it successful.
Although the products sold by Smithers-Oasis have changed considerably since the 1950’s, V.L. Smithers has bequeathed a legacy of undaunted spirit and integrity to both his own company and to the entire floral industry.
V.L. Smithers was still Chairman of the Board when he died at the age of 83.