Seymour Padnos ’43

Seymour Padnos, much loved husband, father and grandfather, successful businessman and generous philanthropist passed away at his home in Holland, MI at the age of 99 on July 9, 2020.

Throughout his life, Seymour was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed nothing more than feeling the wind in his face and sun on his back – whether that be while sailing on the lake or skiing the slopes. His passion for these sports and many other outdoor activities is a joy that he shared with many friends and passed on to his family. When encumbered by bad weather, he found ways to express his love of boats and Michigan history by researching and reading voraciously. Seymour is best remembered at the helm of Scrappy – the sloop he skippered into his early 90s, with one eye on the sails and the other on the horizon.

Seymour was born as the first child of Louis and Helen Padnos on October 17, 1920 in Grand Rapids, MI. He attended EE Fell Junior High, where he was school president and Holland High School and went on to gain his BA at Hope College in 1943. Seymour volunteered and served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. Throughout his life, Seymour established and continued many affiliations – including as an Eagle Scout, a member of the OKE/Frater fraternity, a long-time Rotarian, a Life Member of Masonic Blue Lodge, Scottish Rite 33rd Degree, and as a member and past Commodore of both Macatawa Bay Yacht Club and of the Lake Michigan Yachting Association.

During high school, college and following graduation Seymour worked in his parent’s recycling business, which was founded in 1905. He went on to serve the company as CEO and later Chairman for more than 60 years. For many years during this tenure, he served as Chairman of various national committees and was a Board Member of the Institute of Scrap Iron & Steel. Along with his brother Stuart, Seymour expanded the company into a flourishing business that has gone on to welcome the third and now a fourth generation of family members. Seymour Padnos was a man of vision. He led the effort to establish Holland as a commercial shipping harbor back in the 1940s, sought to expand the company’s operations to work with European and Asian customers during the 1960s and 70’ s and initiated a national competition focused on “Product Design for Recyclability” long before the concept was popular.

Seymour was the recipient of many honors and awards during his lifetime. He received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and was named to both the Lake Michigan Sail Race Federation and to the West Michigan Business Halls of Fame. He was especially proud that his Distinguished Eagle Scout award was presented to him by longtime friend, President Gerald R. Ford. He also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from GVSU and was honored with the Dixy Lee Ray Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, recognizing significant achievements and contributions in the field of environmental protection.

Born to immigrant parents and growing up during the depression, Seymour understood the importance of giving back and was an active philanthropist. As early as the 1950s, he and his brother established the Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation to honor their parents by giving back to the community. Together with his wife, he established the Esther and Seymour Padnos Foundation and was an early supporter of local institutions of higher education – leading to their donation to create the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing and the Padnos Hall of Science at Grand Valley University. Seymour was also an active supporter of the Michigan Maritime Museum, Indian Trails Camps and many other philanthropies. Seymour served as a board member or trustee for many nonprofit organizations during his life, including the Michigan Historical Trust, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Holland Historical Museum, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and the Grand Valley University Foundation. He was a member of Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids for more than 70 years and a founding member of the Windmill Island Historical Society.

Seymour is survived by his beloved wife of 72 years, Esther (Roth), and their four children Mitchell (wife Karen), Shelley (wife Carol Sarosik), Bill (life-partner Margy Kaye), Cindy (husband Jim Redmond) and grandson Louis Padnos.

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