Two wonderful tributes to Terry Kohler from longtime associates, Tom Whidden, President of North Technology Group and Peter Harken, owner of Harken. Dear North Team, It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that Terry Kohler died peacefully at home yesterday afternoon. He had not been really well for the past few years, having struggled with circulatory issues, cancer, heart issues, and if that wasn't enough, he had a fairly violent car accident last spring. I can tell you that Terry's sharp and brilliant mind was fully there until the end, and as he said, the body just wasn't keeping up. He and Mary had lunch together yesterday, he ate it all, and then passed on.
I began working with Terry in 1987 after the America's Cup in Fremantle. He was so passionate about North and all of the things that we were about. When we would come to him with aggressive or wild ideas he would always say, "What took you so long". He was the biggest supporter for all kinds of technology, having graduated with a few degrees from MIT in record breaking time. He particularly liked Minden and our 3D product and technological manufacturing system. He also pushed us to get into the mast and rigging business so that we could influence and control the aero package, or as he coined the phrase, "The Engine Above the Deck".
Terry's business acumen and discipline served North Group well at exactly the right time. When Lowell wanted to sell North to a good owner, Peter Barrett found Terry. Terry was first passionate about sailing but secondly passionate about making North a more business-like company. He helped put controls in place that Lowell probably wouldn't have considered. And he was insistent on using computer technology and communication systems that were well before their practical time. He was always right that a decentralized global company with so many people worldwide needed it. And I always loved our board meetings although we learned quickly to give Terry decaffeinated coffee. He definitely didn't need caffeinated!! And of course he fired Jay 30 times but always quickly hired him back!!
Terry has been very generous to the sailing community worldwide, and particularly women's sailing. He really loved women's match racing, having supported the last US women's Olympic team, and virtually all match racing events and participants over the past ten years. And one of his greatest legacies will be the Sail Sheboygan Sailing Center and the nonprofit SEAS (Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan). Sheboygan, Wisconsin is now an internationally recognized sailing center thanks to Terry's vision, leadership and generosity.
Personally, I will miss Terry's guidance in so many ways. The great news is that Terry's daughters are still shareholders of North Technology Group. I travel to Kohler, Wisconsin twice a year to give their board an update on our activities and results. I will do so next month. We will miss Terry's bigger than life presence but his passion for North will live on with his daughters, Leslie, Danielle and Michelle.
We all used to say "long live Terry". He was a fantastic owner, partner, and friend for North. North will be forever a great company, in large part because of Terry's ownership and leadership for the past 30 years. Terry's influence will be felt for many years to come.
Kind regards to you all, Tom
Terry, what a great friend and friend to our company. He's the type of friend that I cannot remember the years I knew him. Terry was a very direct man, and you always knew were you stood with him. You stood well if you were straight with him whether he liked what you were saying or not, but any waffling or sucking up and you were toast! I really liked and respected him to the fullest and conversations with Terry were never dull and always informative on whatever subject, didn't matter, the man was always full of information. Our company has been involved with quite a few of Terry's projects that he funded like SEAS, the fantastic organization that gets disabled people of all kinds sailing and racing, like the blind and totally incapacitated, simply amazing. He totally funded the women’s match racing program for the Olympics including the boats or there would not have been a woman's match racing in the games and then he was treated badly after the succeeding Olympics dropped the woman's program only after one shot and all the boats around the world and work were worthless. We all were shocked, but Terry never flinched, he's the man that doesn't delve on the wrongs that’s been done to him, but only looks forward and simply says, "Let’s get on with it!" Those are only two examples of many of his generosity to the sailing world. Man, he was a good one, the best, I'll miss him big time.---------Peter