My friend and mentor, Ross S. McKenzie Sr., has passed away at age 102 after a distinguished business career that continued until just five years ago when he retired as president of Sumter …
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My friend and mentor, Ross S. McKenzie Sr., has passed away at age 102 after a distinguished business career that continued until just five years ago when he retired as president of Sumter Coatings Inc. Born in Congaree, S.C., on May 26, 1915, Ross served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theatre in WWII. After the war, he moved to Sumter with his family to take a position as chemist with the Williams Furniture Co. In 1969, Ross and a group of investors started up Southern Coatings Inc. Ross served as CEO of Southern Coatings until his retirement in 1981 (age 66). In 1996 when Sherwin-Williams Co. closed the coating plant on Fulton Street, Ross, at 81, was among a group of investors that formed Sumter Coatings Inc. on Highway 15 South. From 2003-13, Ross served as CEO of that company, proving that "ability is ageless." He performed his duties without a computer or cellphone, preferring to use his trusty calculator and a land-line telephone. Ross wasn't "into" Facebook or Linked-in!
Ross served as chair of the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce, the Sumter County Museum and senior warden at the Church of the Holy Comforter. In 63 years of service to Rotary International, Ross was named Rotarian of the Year (1990) and Honorary Rotarian (2016). In 1999, he recruited me to be the character interpreter of Thomas Sumter for the Sumter County Bi-Centennial year of 2000. Like many of us, he suffered life's adversities such as the loss of a spouse, loss of a child and serious health issues. However, with a smile on his face and a shine on his shoes, Ross McKenzie represented the Greatest Generation well. Rest in peace, Ross. I'm grateful to have known you.