Although Kathy Latham was as spirited as ever while working at her hometown event—the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show—at the end October, the remarkable woman behind Latham Marine was in the midst of an intense three-year battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell in the bone marrow called a plasma cell and can damage the bones, immune system, kidneys and red blood cell count. Unfortunately the generous, one-of-a-kind Latham passed away at age 67 on Monday morning with her family by her side. While the family has asked that its privacy be respected during this time of mourning, a public funeral to honor the vibrant personality will be announced in the near future.
Together, Kathy and Bob Latham created one of the most dependable performance boat parts companies the industry has ever seen. Photo by Tom Newby/copyright Powerboat magazine (above) and Marilyn DeMartini/copyright PR Power (below)
Founded in 1973 by the inventive Bob Latham, Latham Marine has been responsible for some of the most innovative products in the offshore racing and pleasure boat industry for parts of six decades. The company founder is the first to credit his smart, go-getting lifetime partner, Kathy Latham, for helping guide the business into a worldwide leader for a variety of engineering and component solutions, including steering systems, controls, rudders, sea strainers, trim tabs and more, for offshore racing competition as well as cruising, sport yachts, fishing boats and government vessels.
At the same time, the couple, who also own a machine tool company that makes high-pressure coolant pump systems for other equipment manufacturers, raised two smart and independent women—Amanda and Olivia.
“Having the chance to work with Kathy and Bob Latham for many years was a privilege—Kathy was a feisty friend, loyal and sometimes painfully truthful,” said Marilyn DeMartini, a South Florida-based journalist and public relations professional who was a longtime friend and colleague of Kathy Latham. “Her work ethos and sometimes unpopular business dictum of ‘No cash, No splash’ kept Latham Marine in the black during the many ups and downs of the performance marine industry during the company’s 50-year history. By running the front office, she enabled Bob to flourish in the design, engineering and manufacturing of the toughest performance parts that built their reputation and business.
“A staunch patriot, animal lover and friend, there wasn’t a military veteran or a suffering animal she wouldn’t help and her generous philanthropy helped so many without any expectation in return,” she added. “She will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Kathy—I’ll miss our conversations, laughs and I am sorry we never got to write your book!”
Bob Teague, who also founded his Southern California-based powerboat business, Teague Custom Marine, in the early 1970s, agreed with DeMartini. After being informed of the news yesterday, he told Speedonthewater.com that “Kathy was a special woman.”
“I’ve had an incredible relationship with Latham Marine that goes back to the (Bob) Nordskog days,” said Teague, referring to his mentor, the founder of the Pacific Offshore Powerboat Racing Association and Powerboat magazine. “Kathy was an awesome business lady—she was also very right-wing, which I respected. Teague Custom Marine has done business with Latham for as long as I can remember. We’ve used their water pumps exclusively for many years. That was something Bob and I set up a long time ago. She will be missed. I will always remember her saying ‘No cash, No splash.’”
An amazing friend, wife and mother, Kathy Latham will always be remembered for her generosity. Photo by Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images
Speedonthewater.com interviewed the shrewd businesswoman and her incredible daughter, Amanda Latham, in 2021 for “The Interview Issue: Women of Substance” digital magazine and she openly discussed her battle with cancer and the thriving business she and her husband nurtured and maintained throughout the years.
During the interview, Amanda Latham, who has her own business dubbed Man O’ War Marine, addressed her mom’s fight.
“My mom is tough; we all know that,” she said. “I’ve come to terms with (the disease) even though it’s been hard to see her go through it. She continues to live a fulfilling life, and that’s what is important. I think we should live each day like it’s our last because you never know when it will be gone. Every day we wake up we are closer to death, that’s a fact and it’s nothing to be upset about.”
During his time at Powerboat magazine, Speedonthewater.com co-publisher Matt Trulio got to know the Kathy Latham while writing a profile on her husband and the business in the early 2000s. Trulio, who spent a few days with the couple, described her as a fierce protector of the Latham brand and the genius behind it.
“From the outside looking in, Kathy’s role was managing the business at Latham Marine,” he said. “But what I learned during the time I spent with her and Bob was that her primary objective in almost everything she did was keeping Bob out of the day-to-day fray so he could create.
“Kathy Latham was no one to mess with—she held her own and then some in a male-dominated industry—and that was especially true when it came to her husband,” he added. “She was in awe of his talent and vision and was fiercely protective of both. From what I could see, she adored him. And it appeared that the feeling was mutual.”
Check out the slideshow above for more images of Kathy Latham.
A Platinum-level Latham Marine dealer, Upstate New York’s Performance Marine—the home of Saris Racing Engines—has decades of experience with the vaunted brand.
“Bobby and Kathy Latham raised the bar on all marine performance products with Latham Marine,” said Johnny Saris, who works with his father, Jason, at the Bolton Landing company. “They became—and still are—the best of the best for top-tier rigging parts, and we’ve been using their products since the early 1980s.
“Kathy was a huge part of their success,” he added. “All of us at Performance Marine offer our condolences to the whole Latham family.”
Johnny Tomlinson, the co-founder of TNT Custom Marine in North Miami, called Kathy Latham, below with two children with disabilities, a generous human being and fondly remembers a snowmobile trip he took with them from their place in Steamboat Springs in Colorado.
“It’s such a shame; I have known Kathy and Bob since 1986 when I started racing with them and learned a lot,” Tomlinson said. “Kathy has always been wonderful to us and helped us out over the years whenever needed. I was with Bob last week and he was telling about (Kathy). It’s very sad…they have been a big part of our industry.”
Longtime offshore racer and owner of Kinetic Animation in Bradenton, Fla., Ryan Beckley said Kathy Latham was “an amazing lady who always treated me like family.”
“I’ve been close with the Lathams for a very long time,” Beckley said. “Bob and Kathy are great, great folks. And their impact on this industry has been second to none.”
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