Former GLS Corp. owner Louis H.T. Dehmlow III, who steered the business from chemical distribution into thermoplastic elastomer compounding and composite distribution, died Dec. 15 of complications from Alzheimer's disease in Glenview, Ill. He was 75.
Dehmlow had retired in 1996, when he sold the business to his three children, who still are active with the Arlington Heights, Ill.-based firm.
Dehmlow's father and two business partners founded the firm in 1940 as Great Lakes Solvents in Chicago. Its principal business was distributing solvents for Shell Chemical Co. When his father died unexpectedly in 1952, Dehmlow left the U.S. Army to run the firm, which had been renamed Great Lakes Terminal & Transport. If not for the death, Dehmlow probably would have been a career military man, his son Steven said in a Dec. 18 telephone interview.
Louis Dehmlow III took the company into composites distribution in 1957. That business became its own division within GLS in 1974 and eventually merged with Cook Composites & Polymers to form Composites One in 1999. Arlington Heights-based Composites One is the largest composites distributor in the United States.
In 1979, GLS entered the TPE market when it began to compound the Kraton-brand styrenic block copolymers it had been distributing for Shell. It was around this time that Steven Dehmlow rejoined GLS after working at Shell.
The firm's TPE unit has been quite active this year, striking materials-development deals with DSM Thermoplastic Elastomers, GE Plastics and BASF Corp.
Steven Dehmlow said his father's impact on the firm was immense: ``I used to call him `the irresistible force.' He was a very principled person who made things happen. He used to say that every one of our truck drivers was just as important as the president of the company.''
His father also was active in politics throughout his career, speaking out as a strong believer in the free-enterprise system and working on U.S. Rep. Phil Crane's successful congressional campaign in 1969.
The company his father took over in 1952 now has annual sales of $600 million and employs about 600. In addition to TPEs and composites, GLS operates barge terminals in Chicago and Pittsburgh and bulk trucking terminals in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Detroit, and operates its own fleet of trucks.
In addition to Steven and daughters Christine and Nancy, Dehmlow is survived by his wife, Carla.