Remarks by Joseph S. Wright:
Hugh Robertson managed to be both a warm and human person and a wise and successful businessman. Those who knew him well – and I see many here who were his closest friends and associates – we remember his cheerful optimism; his pride in his family and in his company and then his friends. We are here today because each of us has at some time had his life touched by a warm and gentle man.
We will each of us remember him differently – as an employer who had an extraordinary compassion; as an associate who could renew our spirits in times of adversity, as a friend in the widest sense in which that word can be used. We shall miss him, but we won’t forget him; it is certain that all those buying things he stood for will always be important, and that we shall always be the better for having known him. And let us not forget that if Hugh Robertson had anything to say about this, he would doubtless read Tennyson’s poem:
"Sunset and evening star and one clear
call for me. And may there be no moaning
at the bar when I put out to sea."
When Thomas Carlyle composed his lectures on “Heroes and Hero Worship,” he caught something that seems universal: the desire in all of us to discover an individual who personifies those characteristics we look up to. For those of us who knew Hugh Robertson, it was not necessary to read Carlyle or study history to find such a man. He was there with us.
His concern for everyone who worked at Zenith, his integrity, his humanity, the drive of his personality – all of these made for him one for whom we had a very real veneration. In addition, there was a warmth about him that made us love him. I remember going with him through the plant every year at Christmas time, and how the employees looked forward to the chance to talk with him.
Every year around 23 April there will be a phone call. “Well, young fellow, how does it seem to be a year older?”
And once, when it seemed to be taking an awfully long time for something to be approved, I made the mistake of asking him when we might expect a decision.
“Young man,” he said, “are you trying to rush me? ”
No one rushed Hugh Robertson.
It was his concern for those who had retired from Zenith that encouraged the development of our retirement planning program and the establishment of our Zenith – Chicago chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons.
To those of us who worked under him, he seems a personification of what Zenith stood for and we remember him as a man of truly historic stature.
NOTE: The Memorial Service for Mr. Hugh Robertson was held on January 12, 1980 at the First Presbyterian Church, River Forest, Illinois. Mr. Wright was the chairman of the Zenith Corporation.
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Wayne Rethford, Historian
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society