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Colleagues Remember A.D. (Ton) Damen

At Europort 1990, Ton Damen, center, in his Werimex booth with Bubba Savage (left) and Steve Bowes (right). Yolanda Warmerdam is in the background.

At Europort 1990, Ton Damen, center, in his Werimex booth with Bubba Savage (left) and Steve Bowes (right). Yolanda Warmerdam is in the background.

Paul Quinn found this picture of Hannon Hairston, left, and Ton Damen riding camels during one of their sales trips to Egypt.

Paul Quinn found this picture of Hannon Hairston, left, and Ton Damen riding camels during one of their sales trips to Egypt.

A.D. “Ton” Damen died on December 24 of prostate cancer.
Mr. Damen was president of Werimex NV, Bloemendaal, The Netherlands, and represented dredging equipment manufacturers, specifically Florida Machine and Foundry and Mobile Pulley and Machine Works, for many years, starting in 1972.

His wife Corinna (Cora) died in November 2007. Cora and Ton are survived by their three sons Bob, Menno and Anton and their wives and two children each.

Steve Bowes, now retired, was associated with Mr. Damen through Florida Machine and Foundry (FM&F), and then Mobile Pulley when it acquired FM&F.

Bowes said: “It is very strange that I cannot remember meeting Ton the first time, since he always played a very important role, not only in his company, Werimex, but also in ours, Florida Machine and Foundry. It was through him and his contacts with the European dredging industry that our cutters and component parts became well known and used by dredges worldwide. This cooperation goes back to the early 70’s and resulted in a personal friendship and respect that never wavered over the years.

“Yes, we had many challenges that were resolved. No matter how serious the problem, Ton always remained focused on the situation and worked diligently to resolve it to the mutual satisfaction of all parties. It might be extremely difficult, but he got it done. Not only was he a very competent engineer and manager, but Ton was also a man of principle and a true gentleman, who would always do the right thing no matter what was involved. He was also my very good friend and I’ll miss him very much,” said Bowes.
Hannon Hairston travelled with Ton as sales manager and then president of Mobile Pulley.

“He was the best friend I had,” Hairston told IDR from his home in Mobile, Alabama. “Ton first started repping Mobile Pulley in 1972, selling our products in Holland and the rest of the world. He was a super sales guy. He remembered everybody’s name, their kids names and birthdays, what equipment they had.”

Ton was in charge, said Hairston, “We were along to advise. Even when Steve (Bowes) was in competition with Mobile Pulley, we travelled together, dealing with the Dutch and Europeans, selling Steve’s cutters and points and our pumps and ball joints. We sold to the Suez Canal through Ton’s company, to Singapore, and equipment for three super dredges for the Japanese,” said Hairston.

“He and his wife were fanstastic people. We never had a real disagreement in all the years we travelled together, and in the end Ton was more of a friend than a business colleague. He was one of a kind. We felt it terribly when he retired. He gave us access to dredging companies all over the world,” said Hairston, who is retired.

Albert “Bubba” Savage’s father Albert Savage Sr. was president of Mobile Pulley in the 1970’s. Bubba remembers Ton and Cora Damen as family friends.

“Ton Damen was one of the nicest and most genuine persons I have ever met,” said Savage. “I first met (Ton and Cora) as a child in Mobile, Alabama when they visited our house during one of their trips to the U.S. Ton represented Mobile Pulley and Florida Machine and Foundry, and often visited my father and Hannon Hairston. I remember him and Cora as the first ‘foreign’ people I had ever met in person.

“Years later when I was with Mobile Pulley, I had an opportunity to travel in the Far East with Ton, visiting dredge sites and discussing ball joints and cutters with his customers. Strange that he had started his business with my father and Hannon, and was now training me in the ways of the Dutch dredging business.

“I’ll never forget going to some place in Thailand, when standing out as a American was not too safe. In my southern English, I asked Ton what I could do to be as inconspicuous as possible.

“His advice: ‘DON’T TALK!’. The dredging industry has lost another icon.”

Bubba Savage eventually became president of Mobile Pulley, then moved to Metso Minerals as Dredge Pump Product Manager when Mobile Pulley was sold.

Paul Quinn also learned from Ton Damen.

“Ton was such a great guy, but also he was able to combine so many different qualities that really made him one of a kind,” said Quinn. “He was a true definition of the word gentleman and carried himself with a very Continental flair, but at the same time he was very outgoing and friendly to all. I spent a lot of time with him at various Euroports (conferences) and I’ll never forget how he treated everyone with the same degree of interest and respect, whether they were the CEO of a major dredging contractor, a retired worker from a dredge, or just children attending the show with their parents. I learned a lot watching him with people; everyone was special, everyone was important, and you could tell he was sincere and it was not just an act. I always looked forward to spending time with him and his very lovely wife Corinna when I went to Holland.”

Quinn was in sales with Mobile Pulley until its sale, and is now Director of Sales for Ellicott Dredges.

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