Harry Newhard, inventor of one of the first anti-entrapment drain covers, died in St. Louis Oct. 20 after briefly suffering with cancer. He was 82.
The founder of St. Louis-based manufacturer World Wide Sports was a Korean war veteran and a graduate of Brown University, where he received a degree in business.
He spent 40 years working in finance, primarily with the St. Louis firm Newhard, Cook and Co., where he reached the post of president. But eventually an old passion grabbed hold of Newhard and he embarked in a new direction. He had been a competitive swimmer as a young man, nearly qualifying for the Olympics in the early 1950s. So, after leaving the investment world, he decided to try his hand inventing pool products, starting with an automatic cleaner. “He was a tinkerer, and he loved art and design,” said his son, Penn Newhard.
When Newhard learned of the phenomenon of suction entrapment in pools and spas, he made it his mission to find a solution. He released the Star 100, then termed an anti-vortex cover.
“He saw an opportunity to solve a problem that had a negative impact on a number of people’s lives on an annual basis,” Penn Newhard said.
Newhard participated in several standards-writing groups addressing pool safety, and was known among peers for getting down to brass tacks on topics. “He would sit down and study something, and then turn it into math,” said Ron Schroader, principal of Drainsafe/New Water Solutions in Lake Worth, Fla. “He’s the one who figured out the open area, how to slow the velocity of the water down so there wasn’t turbulence on the underside of the cover. Nobody else was really doing that.”
Schroader added that when talk veered off course at standards-development meetings, Newhard was quick to chime in. “Harry always said ‘How does that save a kid’s life?’” Schroader recalled. “He was to the task.”
Last year, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission narrowed the definition of an unblockable drain in the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, Newhard spearheaded an effort to broaden the allowances, which has involved talks with the Senate and the White House and continue forward.
“He was unstoppable and tireless,” said Walt Sanders, vice president of law and government affairs at Alexandria, Va.-based Van Fleet Associates, who worked for New-hard in helping the coalition obtain talks with key government officials. “He was a very intelligent, knowledgeable, sharp individual. [I’ll remember] his vitality, his tireless efforts and his wit.”
World Wide Sports now will be headed by Penn Newhard as president. Newhard’s daughter, Gigi Newhard Mortimer, also will be involved with the company.
Besides his two children, Newhard is survived by seven grandchildren, a sister and brother.