Conrad Left Them Laughing

Yesterday was gray, gloomy and rainy in Newark, New Jersey — just the kind of day Conrad H.C. Everhard would have picked for a luncheon in his memory.

“That’s because it would be too wet to play golf,” cracked Tom Adamski, vice president at First Coast Logistics, who emceed the event.

Conrad Everhard, who died Feb. 25 at 83, was anything but gray and gloomy. He was big, boisterous and joyful, an inveterate jokester and free spirit who spoke his mind, often with outrageous humor. He got away with things most folks wouldn’t dare try.

When he headed OOCL (USA), he often cracked wise about his dealings with the company’s headquarters in Hong Kong. “We have a relationship of trust and understanding,” he said. “They don’t trust me, and I can’t understand them.”

For those who’ve joined the industry since Everhard retired in 1998, think container shipping’s version of Charles Barkley. Like the basketball star turned television commentator, Everhard was funny, irreverent and unpredictable, but deeply knowledgeable and a close student of his profession.

Everhard’s four-decade career spanned the period in which containerized shipping took wing. He emigrated from Holland in the 1950s, graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and entered the industry with United States Lines. He later worked with the Massachusetts Port Authority and was CEO of Dart Container Line and OOCL (USA) and chairman of Cho Yang (USA).

Mark Jaffe, executive partner at Hill, Betts & Nash, said Everhard often used outrageous remarks to make substantive points, and to laugh at the world and himself. “He was able to look at life with perspective and sense of humor,” Jaffe said.

Everhard relished a spirited debate. He staunchly supported rate-setting carrier conferences until their end, and mounted a vigorous but unsuccessful defense of them while serving on an early-1990s presidential commission on the 1984 Shipping Act. Later, he questioned the wisdom of dredging U.S. harbors to handle gargantuan container ships.

Adamski said Everhard could express an unpopular view, or skewer an adversary, “in a way that was not offensive and was humorous.”

Conrad E. Everhard., a New York attorney, said his late father epitomized a now-extinct “Mad Men generation” of post-World War II shipping executives who cut deals over lunchtime martinis, cherished and nurtured personal relationships, and “created the import-export economy we have today.”

That world has vanished along with the Whitehall Club and Downtown Athletic Club, two of Everhard’s favorite Lower Manhattan watering holes. Today’s shipping industry may be more efficient, but its participants don’t have as much fun with it as Everhard did.

When he was active, no one was a more popular speaker at industry events. If a club or organization wanted to fill a hall with paying guests, all they had to do was invite Everhard. No one ever dozed off during one of his speeches.

“I never saw a guy happier to get up in front of a crowd and give a talk,” said Al D’Emeliio, a retired executive at Maher Terminals. “No matter what the subject was — container ships, rowboats, whatever — he had a nice way of leaving a wisecrack at the end, so the crowd would leave laughing.”

Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @josephbonney.

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