Houston, TX: Edward Osborne "Ted" Gaylord, - a successful businessman, entrepreneur, husband, father and grandfather - died early Sunday, the 28th of September 2008, after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He was 76. After a tumultuous two months of hospitalizations in Upstate New York and in Texas, Ted died peacefully in his beloved Houston, holding hands with his wife of 52 years, Louise Brogniez Gaylord.
Born in Rochester, N.Y., on the 17th of December 1931, Ted grew up in nearby Sodus, where his family had a successful apple farm and had owned a bank. He was attending Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y., when he switched his Army Reserve status to active duty and was deployed to Korea soon after the 1953 armistice.
While in Korea, he came across a well-worn, outdated copy of Newsweek magazine whose cover depicted a swaggering Texas oilman with his cowboy boot on the bumper of a pickup truck, a fresh-faced debutante on his arm, and with an oil field in the background. "Houston," the headline proclaimed, "Big Money, Beauty, Black Gold." It would prove to be a perfect match.
In January 1955, he left the snowbound shores of Lake Ontario for Houston, determined to follow in the footsteps of the city's legendary entrepreneurs and wildcatters, and to realize his piece of the American dream. In short order, he enrolled at the University of Houston, where he graduated with a degree in business administration, and he met and fell in love with a tall, striking classmate, Louise Brogniez. They were married the 11th of August 1956.
The next year Ted began his career with Robertson Tank Lines, a Houston-based petroleum trucking company. He moved from department to department, learning the business from the tires up, was promoted to chief financial officer in 1962, executive vice president in 1964, and president and chief executive officer in 1967. He took the company public in 1972 and sold it four years later to Pakhoed, a Netherlands-based international holding company.
In 1977, Ted bought back Robertson Tank Lines, renaming it DSI Transport and shifting the company's focus to the chemical industry. In 1984, he sold privately held DSI to a large British conglomerate, British Electric Traction Co.
A Coca-Cola Co. representative approached him in 1985 about purchasing one of its subsidiaries, Presto Products Inc., a private-label plastic bag manufacturer. Ted's winning bid soon became a oft-told story. In 1988, Reynolds Metals Co. approached him about selling Presto and a deal was struck. In 1989, Ted and a group of Houston investors purchased a 50 percent interest in Houston Fuel Oil Terminal Co., a sprawling storage facility on the Houston Ship Channel. That company was sold in 2007.
In 1993, Ted was named chairman of EOTT Energy Corp., which he took public the next year in a master limited partnership. His time at EOTT brought him full circle back to the distribution business, and he added to his portfolio with the formation of Firebird Transport in newly independent Russia. Amid hijackings and armed robberies, the company ferried shipping containers between Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and its Moscow terminal. From its initial one truck, Firebird quickly grew to a prosperous company which Ted sold in 1998.
Throughout his long and successful career, Ted's enthusiasm for business never waned. "You gotta be fired up about what you're doing - love what you do," he once told students on a return visit to his alma mater, Sodus Central School. His catch phrase, "Thank God It's Monday!" became the title of author William Adler's 1998 biography.
Over the years, Ted served on the boards of directors of Imperial Sugar, Kinder Morgan G.P. Inc, MCorp, Seneca Foods, Superior Oil and Transco Energy Co. He was elected to the Houston branch of the Dallas Federal Reserve and served as its chairman. Among his accomplishments was his leadership in the construction of the Federal Reserve's new branch overlooking Buffalo Bayou just west of downtown Houston.
Ted was a past chairman of the Greater Houston YMCA, a trustee of Baylor College of Medicine, and a board member of the M.D. Anderson Board of Visitors. He also served on the boards of Duchesne Academy, the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y; and the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution and the Jamestown Foundation, both located in Washington, D.C. He was a member of the Young presidents' Organization, the Chief Executives Organization and the World Presidents' Organization.
A member of the Houston Country Club since 1972, and of Birnam Wood Gold Club, Santa Barbara, California, since 1999, he was also a member of the Adirondack League Club in Old Forge, N.Y., since 1968, serving as the club's president from 1984 to 1986. Ted and Louise were longtime members of Christ Church Cathedral downtown Houston and later attended St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Tanglewood.
For the last fifteen years, he fought an ultimately losing battle against pulmonary fibrosis, a hereditary disease that killed his 50-year-old father in 1950 and his father's sister. The condition largely robbed him of his lung capacity and forced him into a succession of hospitals this summer in Utica, N.Y., while he was at his vacation home in the Adirondack Mountains. A planned medivac flight to Houston was postponed by Hurricane Ike but he was able to reach Methodist Hospital within a few days of the storm's passing. He had accomplished his final goal: to make it home to Houston.
Ted is survived by his wife of 52 years, Louise Gaylord; a son, Edward Arms "Ted" Gaylord of Houston, and his children, Lindsay, Hannah and Tristam; a daughter, Marion Gaylord "Missy" Macfadyen and her husband William M. "Bill" Macfadyen, of Santa Barbara, California, and their children, Will, Colin and Kirsten; and son, John Preston Gaylord and his wife, Jacqueline Delaney "Jackie" Gaylord, of Houston, and their children, Casey, Kelly and Caroline.
He is also survived by his older brother, Preston Arms "Bud" Gaylord, and his wife Claire, of Salt Lake City. Ted was preceded in death by his parents and his twin brother, Willis Theodore (Bill), who died of polio in 1946 at age 14. Other relatives include Louise's brothers: Pat Robertson and wife, Carol, of Austin, Texas; and Jay Robertson and wife, Masey, of Anchorage, KY.
A service will be held at 4 PM on Friday, the 3rd of October, at St. John's Episcopal Church, 54 West Main Street, Sodus, New York, the Reverend Carmen Seufert officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations in Ted's name may be made to the Rise School, 8080 North Stadium Drive, Houston, TX 77054 or the charity of your choice.
Published in Rochester Democrat And Chronicle on Sep. 30, 2008.