Clifton Eugene “Gene” Hurst, 79, founder and CEO of Hurst Boiler & Welding Co., died July 22 in Coolidge, Ga. An entrepreneur, skilled engineer and devoted family man, Hurst is remembered by all for his kindness, dedication, vision and inexhaustible will. Not only did he grow Hurst Boiler into a successful boiler company, he helped to transform the boiler industry through innovation.

“We lost one of the greatest men to ever live, a man adored by many, a man of true character, a man that meant so much to so many... my hero, best friend and my grandfather,” said Chad Fletcher, Hurst’s grandson and Hurst Boiler’s director of aftermarket parts and sales.

 Gene Hurst started his family business in 1967 with his wife, Edna, in a shop behind their home in Thomasville, Ga. He moved the business to its present location in Coolidge in 1970. The company manufactures a full line of solid waste-, wood- gas-, coal- and oil-fired steam and hot water boilers and related equipment in a 314,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility on 17 acres. Forty-eight years later, the business Gene Hurst began remains in the family, currently under the direction of the Hurst children: Tommy, Hayward, Teri and Jeff. It is the largest employer in the area, maintaining more than 350 employees at full production capacity.