David Coulton Lovell
Quiet, Brilliant, Generous
A friend of David Lovell once observed, “If they made a movie of his life, it would probably be entitled ‘The Quiet Man.’”
That he was. Quiet – yet always on the go.
The pioneering chemical engineer, dedicated family man and co-founder of The David and Lura Lovell Foundation was passionate about many aspects of the life he embraced.
In high school in Davenport, Iowa he was an outstanding student, accomplished athlete, class president, editor of the school paper and ROTC officer.
David earned his berth in the U.S. Navy as a seaman first class – after passing the Eddy electronics exam, which until then was thought impassable by anyone less than a college graduate.
At Iowa State University in Ames, “his makeup was a wonderful blend of many interests – social, athletic, music, the fraternity – as well as his education,” a fraternity brother recalled. “That made him a very complete and capable person.”
David graduated in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and married his college sweetheart Lura in 1951. His sense of responsibility was soon apparent.
Chemical Engineering Career
Lura recalled there was a terrible flood that summer and the town where they lived was surrounded by water, so she drove David to a waiting motorboat, gave him the lunch bucket and “off he went for five days to protect the machinery” at the chemical plant.
He worked for nearly 20 years for chemical companies in several states in many capacities – from plant chemist and engineering troubleshooter to director of engineering and vice president. He studied the feasibility of new ventures that led to the formation of four lucrative companies.
A longtime friend said that David “possessed brilliance” along with “a great sense of humor.” By 1967, he ventured out on his own, founding the Coulton Chemical Company in Ohio to retreat spent sulfuric acid. He negotiated with Standard Oil of Ohio to design and build his own plant to meet their processing needs – but only if the oil company would sign a long-term contract to acquire a portion of what he produced.
A banker who helped secure financing said, “Dave was a breath of fresh air to us. He was so straightforward and so clever.”
“He came up with a project to make sulfuric acid – a common, everyday commodity in the chemical market – but with a few twists that made the project unique and very profitable.” David founded a second company in 1975 called Cairo Chemical, where he produced a sulfuric acid so pure that some circuit board etchers would use no other.
David was in fact a visionary who also developed a process that would reduce pollution by recycling waste byproduct. He found ways to efficiently and affordably produce alkylate, used to enhance the octane level in gasoline.
Sensitive and Spirited Soul
His wife Lura often recalled, “Dave was the most generous person I ever met.” He gave of himself to community organizations, his church, family, employees and friends. Along with Lura, he worked on behalf of people with serious mental illness, a passion close to their hearts.
The Lovells had four children – including Rob, who was born with organic brain damage, later diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome, schizophrenia and epilepsy. As he grew to adulthood there were fewer services available and no suitable housing.
After dealing with those challenges for Rob, David and Lura became founding board members of Neighborhood Properties in Toledo to provide supportive housing for adults who have severe mental illness. David and two other businessmen led the acquisition, rehabilitation and organization of the first 40 units. Ultimately, the nonprofit project expanded to 450 housing units.
“He was sensitive to the losses that people indeed suffer, especially families where one member is mentally ill,” said a longtime friend and Foundation board member. “He was aware that his family would be well cared for and that he and the family had an opportunity to make a difference by doing charitable good deeds for the community.”
As the Lovells prepared to sell the businesses and form a family foundation, David was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer. Even then, he embraced his life philosophy – move forward with positive actions and leave the negative behind.
He discovered the benefits of integrative medicine when an oncology nurse taught him guided imagery and meditation, which helped him spend his final few weeks peacefully connecting with the people he loved.
After he died at age 66 in July 1993, Lura propelled the Foundation forward, focusing on four areas that were near and dear to both of them – mental health, integrative medicine, cultural/spiritual enrichment and philanthropic education.