Ethan George Weiss, a former top executive in the plastics industry who was also a passionate and dedicated multi-sport amateur athlete and lifelong mentor to many in the worlds of golf and business, died Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at the age of 83. He suffered from complications stemming from a long fight with kidney disease.
“Ethan – or Big E,” as he was known to one and all, rose from humble beginnings in the nearby suburbs of his hometown of Philadelphia, the son of a high school math teacher and mom who went back to work as a nurse so they could afford to send him to college. Completely irreverent, he liked to remember that he spent the summers “digging graves and caddying.”
He was a junior at the Penn Wharton School of Business when he met his future wife Mary Priscilla Krampf (Polly) on a blind date. She was a senior at Agnes Irwin High School, but the romance flourished and “Polly and Ethan” eventually became their collective moniker for the rest of their lives. Polly pre-deceased him in 2005.
Armed with a BS in Economics, Ethan joined the Navy in 1956 and attended Officers Candidate School and Naval Supply School before being assigned to the Port Lyautey Naval Air Station in Kenitra, Morocco. He also soon became a coach of the Navy Regional Basketball Team, which qualified for the semi-final playoffs in Washington, DC, in 1958. They would have gone on to Hawaii for the Navy championships in March but lost the game – and he married Polly instead. She soon joined him overseas, and the first of three children was born in Morocco.
Returning to Pennsylvania and the Downingtown area, Ethan joined Westlake Plastics in 1960 in Lenni, PA, and rose through the ranks to be President and CEO. He also soon joined Whitford Country Club, where he served as chairman of the Golf Committee and eventually as club President for three and a half years in the 1970s. Ethan initiated and ran the Westlake Pro-Am Tournament from 1975-1990. He retired from Westlake in 1998.
He traveled the U.S. and Scotland playing many of the world’s best golf courses. He also began dividing his time between Pennsylvania and Amelia Island, FL, in 1974. He eventually moved there full-time in 2000, but he did not divert his attention from golf. Ethan started a Pro-Am benefit to help local pros and was involved with the Navy Seals Foundation Charitable Golf Tournament from 2011 until his death.
Friends and colleagues in the industry remembered Ethan as a mentor in all aspects of their lives – and some liked to tease him about being “a captain of industry.” They also fondly remembered the obligatory gin games, zingers and dirty jokes he and golfing friends made a fixture at their clubhouses; and some remembered (not so fondly) olive green Grenadier cigars that he smoked constantly.
At home, when he was ready for another vodka, he’d rattle the ice cubes in his now-empty glass and call out: “Hey, Pol!”
It became a trademark line, and Polly forgave him.
At Baxter’s Restaurant on Amelia Island, which Ethan frequented – some say “lived in” – friends and admirers greeted news of his death by referring to him as “Mayor of Baxter’s.”
Ethan remains a retired Commander in the Naval Reserves.
There will be a celebration of Ethan’s life on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at the Sea Oats Room at The Ocean Club on Amelia Island beginning at 5 p.m. A second celebration of his life will be scheduled in Pennsylvania soon.
The family requests in lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Navy Seals Foundation at http://www.navysealfoundation.org
Ethan is survived by three children and their spouses – Hillary (& Scott) Latham, Brad (& Tawnia) Weiss and Geoff (& Theresa) Weiss – and four grandchildren Victoria Latham, Matt and Sarah Weiss, and Brooke Weiss.