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Gerald J. Knoll (1932-2008)
Born the eighth of nine children to a local physician in the Vermilion, Alberta area, Gerald moved at an early age to Edmonton, where he attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Joseph High School.
He attended the University of Alberta briefly, completing one year in the engineering program before hooking on as a roughneck for Imperial Oil. Gerald's stint as a wildcat roughneck lasted a mere eight months before he went to work for brother George at Baldwin and Knoll, which was making a name for itself refurbishing rigs bought in the United States for use in the harsher winter conditions in Canada.
Starting at the bottom as a rig push, Gerald eventually moved up to operations manager, and his brief engineering background helped him become particularly adept at designing conversions.
But he knew there was a better way, and in March 1973 he left Baldwin and Knoll to establish Knoll Rig and Equipment Company- better known as Kremco-where he set about designing and building a truly "Made in Canada" workover rig.
Beginning with a design licensed from Ideco, a series of modifications to such things as drive trains-to adapt the self-propelled service rig to the rough lease roads prevalent in western Canada-and additions like heated rig f loor enclosures-to provide safer working conditions in the harsh Canadian winter- eventually led to the emergence, in 1977, of Kremco's first "Made in Canada" service rig.
Kremco grew alongside the western Canadian oil patch, and in 1980 merged with Dreco Energy Services, where Gerald remained as manager of the Kremco division until Dreco was sold to National Oilwell, at which time Gerald left to found KSM Inc., a western Canadian-based refurbisher of rigs and other oilfield equipment.
Over the last two decades, KSM and Kremco have built more than 400 complete well servicing units, with a reputation for quality that has become their hallmark. Their rigs-self-contained units for offshore work, track-mounted rigs for use in jungle marshes, rigs on sand tires for desert deployment, and cold-weather rigs to work in Siberia (and Canada)-are now found around the world, from the North Slope of Alaska to the Sahara Desert.
Particularly notable is Kremcovets rig, built on the chassis of a Russian Kirovets agricultural tractor to meet Russian content requirements. The rig remains popular in Siberia, and is an example of the kind of ingenuity that has established Canada as a major supplier of global oilfield equipment.
Gerald's business success was built on hiring good people, helping them get better, setting high business standards, and having the highest quality standards. He kept things simple because, as he often said, that was the easiest way to achieve success.
He applied many of the same principals outside the work setting, lending quiet but unwavering support to a number of healthcare and youth organizations, including the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation, the Youth Emergency Shelter Society, the Canadian Diabetes Society, various youth sports teams, and a list of other organizations too lengthy for this space.
Deb Cautley of the Youth Emergency Shelter Society in Edmonton perhaps said it best after his death in January of this year: "He had kind of a crusty exterior, but he had the biggest heart."