K. Herbert Turk Sr., 94, president of Pemco Corp.

March 06, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

K. Herbert Turk Sr., former president of Pemco Corp. in Baltimore, died Thursday of pancreatic cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. He was 94 and lived at the Brightwood Club Association retirement community in Lutherville.

A Baltimore native, Mr. Turk was a graduate of Polytechnic Institute and studied at the Johns Hopkins University before joining the firm founded by his father, Karl Turk Sr., and uncle Heinrich Turk. Pemco makes glazes and industrial coatings.

One of Pemco's creations was frit -- a custom-made glass powder used in porcelain, enamel and ceramic glazes that could be fused to steel at high temperatures.

"His father invented this in his apothecary and early patent-medicine business, which Baltimore was famous for," said Joseph K. McGeady, a history enthusiast who collected Pemco memorabilia for the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

"He inadvertently discovered a method of putting an enamel surface on rolled steel. Up to this time, you could only get a film on cast iron," he said. "According to the story I heard, he was working at his experiment table with a Bunsen burner, and whatever he was grinding in his pestle somehow or other coated a piece of steel he was working on, and they couldn't get it off -- and it glistened.

"He realized it might have some commercial application," said Mr. McGeady, who lives in Baltimore. "It was one of Baltimore's minor inventions, like many things that came out of its patent-medicine business." The process evolved to cover everything from appliances to automobiles and airplanes.

Pemco, which stood for Porcelain Manufacturing Co., moved in 1922 to its Eastern Avenue location after a fire damaged the garage where it was founded, he said.

Mr. Turk joined the business as a young man and became its president, retiring in 1966. In 1961, Pemco merged with the former Glidden Paint Co., and the company was acquired several times again before becoming a corporate entity, said his son, K. Herbert Turk Jr. of Emmaus, Pa.

Mr. Turk served on the Sales Executives Council of Baltimore; the board of directors of North Charles General Hospital, now Homewood Hospital Center-South; and the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, where he was an honorary member.

He was a member of the Boumi Temple, Rotary Club and Baltimore Country Club. He kept a flower garden and had owned a home near Easton on the Miles River, where he enjoyed boating and golfing.

He also was a member of First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3807 N. Charles St., where funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. today.

In addition to his son, Mr. Turk is survived by his wife, the former Leila Rutherford, whom he married in 1930; a daughter, Mariellen Schultz of Atlanta; two sisters, Lillie Zeren and Irma Klein, both of Baltimore; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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