gasworld is saddened to share the news of the passing of Henry ‘Hank’ Grieco, a stalwart and ‘magnetic personality’ of the North American specialty gases business.
Grieco passed away on Monday 28th August (2023) in his home state of Pennsylvania, at the age of 87.
Born in Bronx, New York to the late Anthony and Bernadette (Binder) Grieco, he was the beloved husband of Rosemarie Miller and the late Gail Grieco, and devoted father of Stephen H. Grieco and stepfather of Thomas Miller (Taury) and Julie Gowan (Scott).
Grieco also leaves behind a beloved specialty gases community.
Though he was a veteran of the US Coast Guard and served during the Vietnam War, it was arguably the specialty gases business that Grieco was most synonymous with, having spent decades in the pioneering era of the industry and laying the foundations for all those that have blazed a trail or worked in the space since.
Peter Finlay, a long-term friend and associate of Grieco, can attest to this esteem in specialty gases and shared his reflections with gasworld.
“I first met Hank, who managed the specialty gases business for Airco, in 1974 at a trade show in Colorado. Little did I know at the time that we’d be close friends until his passing on 28th August. At that time, I was with Airco corporate and knew virtually nothing about the specialty gases business.”
“What I did find almost immediately was that he had a magnetic personality. Once you spent time with him, you couldn’t wait for the next time. But I wasn’t alone. Accepting his invitation to his hospitality suite, I met customers and his staff members who all thought he was the best – both technically and personally.”
“In 1975 I transferred to the gases business as communications director and got a much closer look at this guy who was a trailblazer in the business. When customers were demanding higher and higher purity gases and mixtures, he took this on both as a technical expert and a marketing guru.”
Finlay continued with an example of Grieco’s dedication to quality and safety combined with his entrepreneurial spirit.
“Specifically, it was the movement away from steel cylinders to aluminium cylinders for gas mixtures. There was no way to assure the stability of these mixtures in steel cylinders versus aluminium counterparts. Hank took this on as a personal challenge and spearheaded the development of SPECTRA SEAL, a proprietary process for cleaning that assured the purity of the mixtures far beyond what steel could do. With his unique marketing prowess, he turned this development into a brand that distinguished Airco as the leader in the gas mixture business.”
“That’s how Hank functioned in his entire career at Airco. When he retired, he became an entrepreneur in the industry on another level, establishing a services business selling specialty gas filling systems, hardware systems and brokering gases, taking advantage of his reputation in the industry.”
As well as being the owner and president of Special Gas Services from 1982 to 2006, Grieco’s innovative spirit shone though further still when he co-founded Specialty Gas Report (SGR) magazine in 1999 – an endeavour that Finlay also remembers well.
“The jewel in his entrepreneurial spirit was the creation of Specialty Gas Report which he and Mike Vasilakis, the former editor of Gases and Welding Distributor magazine, embarked upon together,” he recalled. Grieco is pictured with Vasilakis in the photo above.
“Often these types of publications are referred to as ‘kitchen table’ magazines. Not Specialty Gas Report. It was created on a diner at which yours truly witnessed. Hank had the finances and desire; Mike had the expertise, a great combination. They both knew there was a crying need for such a publication – and boy were they right. It was an instant success, with both readers and advertisers alike.”
An international relationship
Years later, Specialty Gas Report would become part of the gasworld family of publications and services to the industry, and endures today as a quarterly section within gasworld magazine and gasworld US Edition.
There is so much more to the story of that acquisition, however, all of which is steeped in the kindness and devotion that Grieco shared with both people and the industry he so loved – as John Raquet, founder and former CEO of gasworld, reflected.
“I was saddened to hear of the passing of one of the most knowledgeable people I have come across on the specialty gases business, Hank Grieco. I was first introduced to Hank and the SGR team back in 2008 when I had asked for a meeting with them to discuss the prospect of acquiring the business and effectively invited myself to New Jersey,” he enthused.
“We all met in a hotel and straight away I faced years of experience in this niche side of the industrial gases business – with the age range varying between 72 and 78 if I recall, with the exception of the youthful – by comparison – Pat Carlucci!”
“I offered to rebuild their website and modernise the magazine – for free! I knew this was the only way to get Hank’s attention and trust in looking after and keeping the legacy of what they had been doing for years. We had huge respect for what they had built and dedicated themselves to. This was succeeded by a visit of Hank and Mike [Vasilakis] to Cornwall that tickled them pink seeing how far we were from London.”
“By January 2009, we had convinced Hank to sell the magazine and there began a relationship that stimulated his mind and addressed our need of expertise in specialty gases. This relationship developed internationally when Hank joined us (gasworld) in Santiago, Chile for our South American conference and again a year or two later in Dubai for our MENA event! Despite his advancing years, he was always so enthusiastic about the specialty gases business and went out of his way to educate companies and executives on the subject. It underscored his love and belief in the industry.”
It was an international relationship that endured, and Raquet continued, “Hank was a delight to work with, but I have to confess I probably failed to keep his legacy magazine and business alive when we merged the business with that of CryoGas International in 2013; one regret I have from my days running gasworld.”
“But we remained in contact right up until a couple of years ago when he either reached out to me or I to him.”
“I’ll always be grateful for knowing Hank and having the opportunity to take on SGR. I am also thankful to Hank and Rosie for looking kindly on a stranded Brit with no hotel to stay in, when I was in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area when super-storm Sandy struck the North East. They put me up for a night – and it gave Hank another chance to catch up about our industry and look at more opportunities to cover the speciality gases business!”
“I send my family’s thoughts to Rosie and his family at this time. Remember the good days – we will, as well as his smile and generosity over the years.”
Finlay also paid tribute to Grieco’s smile, generosity and fervour for specialty gases – and underlined the strength of the legacy he leaves behind.
“People in the specialty gases business as it is today may not remember Hank, because life goes on. Unknowingly, many of them are enjoying the fruits of the groundwork laid by Hank and others who made contributions in the early days.”
“I know I’ll never forget Hank Grieco, as a friend and a business associate.”