"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice." Cherokee proverb. Robert "Bob" Agee lived the life of his dreams, doing what he most loved to do, creating, designing and building chemical plants in various parts of the world. He was born in High Knob, Va., on April 12, 1933, and passed away in Baton Rouge on Friday, July 8, 2011. Bob is survived by his devoted wife, Telma Maria Agee; six children, Robert B. Agee Jr., Lee Ann Agee Hilgendorf, Samuel Clay Agee, Lisa Olivia Agee, Andrea Maria Agee and Lhea Carlee Agee; and three grandchildren, Samuel Joseph Hilgendorf, Savannah Faye Hilgendorf and Noah Robert Pierre Coton. Bob graduated from the University of Florida with honors with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1956 and earned his master's degree in chemical engineering from LSU in 1969. He spent most of his working career with Ethyl Corp., where he was head of engineering at Ethyl's Orangeburg, S.C., operations and served as distinguished research and development adviser at Albemarle Corp., retiring with 47 years of service. While at Albemarle, Bob was profiled in the Wall Street Journal for his achievements. At the end of his career, he held 23 patents for processes creating commercial specialty chemicals. His most prominent patent was for the first process that allowed the commercial production of ibuprofen. His engineering work took him around the world, including Europe and South America. While searching for bauxite in the Amazon jungle in Brazil, Bob met Telma and had their first child, Lisa, in Belem do Para. Bob solved problems with reckless abandon, had little regard for political correctness and had no respect for the status quo. The stories surrounding Bob's problem-solving campaigns are legion and are told with relish by those who he mentored. Bob was the company's most gifted engineer for unsolvable problems. When everyone was throwing up their hands in surrender, he was the one they called. And if Bob was ever challenged on his plan to do anything, the response was almost an automatic "Watch me." Leaders possessing Bob's mettle, focus, intellect and fearlessness are rare. Bob left an indelible imprint on Albemarle and much of the profits enjoyed by Albemarle today are the result of his heroic labors in years past. He made it clear to new engineers and chemists, "If you are not fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm." Indeed, many of the corporation's recent successes stem from the attitudes he instilled in current senior leadership when in their youth. Bob's accomplishments are the subject of awe and the fond memories of his achievements continue to inspire and fascinate Albemarle engineers and scientists. Bob will be remembered as a man with an amazing force of personality. He leaves his wife and children a legacy of generosity, adventure, and a never ending thirst for knowledge. Bob's character was iconic, and he will never live just in our memories ... because he will be ever present with us. Pai, you were our hero. "Son of a bitch! I lived a damn good life!" - Bob Agee. Bob's Celebration of Life Memorial will take place at his favorite spot on Saturday, July 16, at 10:30 a.m. Please contact the family at (225) 383-3669 for more details.
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Published in TheAdvocate.com on July 13, 2011