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Pioneer in fiberglass boats, Pipewelders’ George Irvine dies

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By Dorie Cox

George M. Irvine Jr., a pioneer in fiberglass marine development and owner of several marine business, died Nov. 13 of a heart attack at his home in Ft. Lauderdale. He was 89.

Mr. Irvine was retired from his company, Pipewelders Marine, an 11-acre facility encompassing Pipewelders, High Seas Technology, P&R Canvas, and Billfish Marina located on the New River in Ft. Lauderdale.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Irvine started the marine division of Owens Corning Fiberglass and was integral in Hatteras Yachts building the first production-line fiberglass boat. He went on to become vice president of Hatteras and continued working with design and building of the line, which is still in production.

“He stalked boat builders to get them to build with fiberglass,” his son Edison Irvine said. “He finally talked the guys in North Carolina into it. He taught them how to build the jig and mold.”

In the 1960s, Mr. Irvine became president of Chris Craft and moved to Ft. Lauderdale. In 1977, he resigned that position and purchased Pipewelders Marine, then a small mom-and-pop company.

Mr. Irvine came in at the crack of dawn and stayed until 5 p.m. every day, his son said.

George Irvine onboard M/Y Tight Line, a 61-foot Garlington, with sons Trey (left) and Edison in Mexico in 2000. PHOTO PROVIDED

“He worked hard. He took it from about 16 employees, moved it up river in 1983 when he bought the marina, and at one time it got as high as 270 employees,” his son said. The company employees about 125 currently.

“Most interesting is how much his employees loved him,” his son said. “He started pension and profit sharing way back when and lots of people have earned up to a quarter of a million dollars, people that wouldn’t have had a thing. They admired him so much, he was always fair and looking after his employees.”

After his retirement about three years ago, Edison Irvine picked up his father for drives along the beach and martini lunches.

“He loved it and he liked counting ships and cruise ships,” he said. “We had a good life and went to the Bahamas a lot. He did committee boat for the Shootout at Walker’s Cay on Virens. That boat has been on the cover of five different magazines.”

His son worked with his father until 1993 when he left to start a clear vinyl business, Strataglass. He also runs Edison Works.

The Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) awarded Mr. Irvine the Golden Anchor Award in 2006 in recognition of a lifetime of industry contribution and achievement.

The first production line fiberglass Hatteras built in 1960, the 40-foot M/Y Knit Wits, continues to be displayed at boat shows and is docked at Billfish Marine in Ft. Lauderdale. PHOTO DORIE COX

“One of the reasons the Marine Industries Association of South Florida picked him for the award is because way back he felt strongly that we need young people interested or we will not be an industry,” said Jill Irvine, daughter-in-law and vice president of sales for High Seas Technology.

She said he worked with 30 marine businesses for an event that invited young people to apply for jobs.

“The business would pay for their school,” she said. “We hired two and we have one who has been with us for 17 years.”

She said she will miss seeing Mr. Irvine in the office.

“He saw the vision and would not take ‘no’ for the answer,” she said. “Sometimes he would just prove you wrong.

Mr. Irvine’s other son, Trey Irvine, is president and currently runs the businesses of Pipewelders Marine.

Mr. Irvine is survived by his two sons, daughters-in-law Jill and Tamara, former daughter-in-law Katherine, and grandchildren Ian, Whitney, Dierdra, Edison Jr. and Aubry.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in the name of George M. Irvine to the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

 

Submitted to The Triton

George M. Irvine Jr. passed away on Nov. 13 at the age of 89.

George M. Irvine Jr. passed away on Nov. 13 at the age of 89.

He was an icon in the marine industry. From humble beginnings, he started the marine division of Owens Corning Fiberglass in the late 1950s and is responsible for getting the first production fiberglass boat built by Hatteras Yachts. He went on to become vice president of Hatteras, designing and building the longest production line in the business, still in use today.

Mr. Irvine was offered the presidency of Chris Craft in the late 1960s and moved to Ft. Lauderdale. In 1977, he resigned his position at Chris Craft and purchased Pipewelders Marine, then a small mom-and-pop company.

Today, Pipewelders Marine is an 11-acre facility encompassing Pipewelders, High Seas Technology, P&R Canvas, and Billfish Marina, all known worldwide and created by Mr. Irvine.

He was a remarkable man, loved by many, and most importantly, his employees.

George M. Irvine Jr. passed away on Nov. 13 at the age of 89.

George M. Irvine Jr. passed away on Nov. 13 at the age of 89.

Mr. Irvine is survived by two sons, Trey and Edison, daughters Katherine, Jill and Tamara, and his five grandchildren, Ian, Whitney, Dierdra, Edison Jr. and Aubrey.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in the name of George M. Irvine to the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

A memorial service is scheduled for Dec. 3. at Fred Hunter Funeral Home, 718 S Federal Hwy, Ft. Lauderdale (33316) at 10:30 a.m.

In lieu of flowers please make a donation in the name of George M. Irvine to the Marine Industries Association of South Florida education fund.

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