GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 31, 2007) — He dubbed himself “Doc Retread,” and be it a problem with machinery, manpower or tires, Dean Smith usually had a prescription for what ailed a retreading operation.
That confidence came from more than 20 years experience in the retreading industry, working in such places as the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Jordan, Canada, Africa, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Germany, Turkey and the U.S.
Mr. Smith, who turned 45 on Oct. 2, died Oct. 28. His wife Catherine, who worked in the Goodlettsville-based Doc Retread Inc. consulting business Mr. Smith founded in 2005, said he died from heart failure after being in a critical care unit since Oct. 5. He recently had been diagnosed with an enlarged heart and a malfunctioning heart valve.
Born in Halifax, England, Mr. Smith grew up in Wales. He came to the U.S. in November 1997 to help a now-defunct retreading company in Middle Village, N.Y., get a mold cure plant up and running, which not only entailed managing the facility but also teaching staffers how to operate it, Mrs. Smith said. Dean and Catherine met two weeks after he arrived in the U.S. and married in March 1999.
The “Doc” was trained as an electro-mechanical engineer and then, according to his Web site, affiliated that knowledge with retreaded tires. Mrs. Smith recalled a project he was hired to oversee in Jordan that took some two years to set up. The Doc arrived there to a shell of a building and helped construct a retreading plant practically from the ground up.
During his career he managed retreading plants, also serving in various capacities as a technical manager and retread technical director, as well as a consultant to a number of U.S. retreaders.
He also periodically contributed opinion pieces to Tire Business and, in August,wrote a letter to the editor that stirred up discussion. In it he questioned the safety of used tires, noting: "When my wife or I purchase a used vehicle, I have the habit of replacing all the tires. That may be a bit extreme, but I feel happier.
"Please do not gamble with your life and others´ lives on a piece of rubber you do not trust—or don´t know where it came from!"
Recently he told Tire Business that an American company had enlisted his services to set up a retreading plant in China, although several weeks ago Mr. Smith said that project had been temporarily put on hold.
“Dean really believed in the tire industry.... He loved the industry and loved teaching,” Mrs. Smith said.
As for the future of Doc Retread Inc., of which he was president, she added that Mr. Smith “was the business. Everything was his knowledge, his expertise. He was such a good teacher."
“I've seen him talking over the phone with someone who might be having a problem in their retreading plant, maybe with a piece of equipment," she continued. "Even without a schematic, Dean could diagnose a problem and suggest a solution and get the plant operating again. He made it all seem so easy. He loved sharing information.”
Mrs. Smith said that love of retreading often translated into “helping independent dealers who couldn't always afford to retain a full-time person but found it reasonable to hire Dean as a consultant.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Smith is survived by his mother Doreen, who lives in Pembroke Wales, children James and Chloe from his first marriage, and brothers Glen and Scott.
There will be no funeral for Mr. Smith, his wife said. She is planning to visit Pembroke Wales some time next year “where he grew up and sprinkle his ashes in a place where he loved being as a child.” In lieu of flowers, she suggested donations in the name of Dean Eric Smith to the American Heart Association “or any heart association, since it was his heart that finally gave out on him.”