Ron Rice, a high school chemistry teacher who was trained to forage for oil but who instead made a fortune by brewing coconut sunscreen in a 20-gallon trash can in his garage and temptingly calling it Hawaiian Tropic, died on May 19 in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was 81.
His death, in a hospital, announced his family on Facebook. No cause was given.
mr. Rice, a poor boy from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, fell in love with the Florida shores during a family vacation in the 1940s. Years later, after a visit to Hawaii, he was inspired to adopt Coppertone, a leading brand of tanning oil, which naturally pale sunbathers like he promised would tan, not burn, when slathered with the zinc oxide, alkyl of the product. benzoate, isopropyl palmitate and other ingredients.
After graduating from college in 1964, he moved to Florida, taught for eight years (in volatile positions at seven schools, but long enough to earn a deferment of military service), and worked part-time as a football coach and lifeguard, positions that were well-suited. were fulfilled by its height of 1.80 meters.
In addition, he blended countless combinations of coconut oil, exotic fruits, aloe, avocado, kukui, mineral oil, and cocoa butter until they all came together into a lotion that some 11-year-olds in the neighborhood poured out of that basic garbage. canned in bottles labeled Hawaiian Tropic and first sold on the beach on July 20, 1969. (Coconuts were not native to Hawaii and were probably originally grown on islands in Southeast Asia, but the name Tropic Tan was already copyrighted. )
In 2006, after years of brazen promotion through celebrity-judged beauty pageants (Donald J. Trump met his second wife, Marla Maples, while competing in a Hawaiian Tropic pageant), car racing (the company name was on a Porsche driven by Paul Newman at Le Mans in 1979), and cunning and not-so-subtle placements in movies and on TV shows — along with several other stunts — had sales of Hawaiian Tropic reached $110 million, making it the second-largest company in sun care products in the world.
A year later, Mr. Rice it to Playtex Products for $83 million.
“Sunburn is sex,” he once said. “That’s what it all comes down to. Sex and vanity.”
Ronald Joseph Rice was born on September 1, 1940 in Ashville, NC, to Clyde and Pauline (Crosby) Rice.
The family lived on a mountain. From the time Ron was 5, he and his siblings would sell apples, cider, honey, grapes and Christmas wreaths at their roadside stall to supplement their father’s income as a civil engineer.
He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where, according to various accounts, he studied to research oil and uranium and become a teacher.
“I used to teach in school and made $4,300 a year. Four thousand of that was the teaching part, $300 was the coaching part,” he once told a TV interviewer. “I did that for eight years. I could come back to that if I had to, but I’m not saying I want to go back.”
“It’s fun,” he said of his sultry lifestyle, slathered with Hawaiian Tropic, “and there’s a lot of extra toys involved, and a lot of fun times, and I drink a little better quality wine, of course, but I’m still always a country boy.”
Information on survivors was not immediately available.
In the 12,000-square-foot home of Mr. Rice in Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona Beach and not far from the lifeguard where he once worked, housed a nightclub and an indoor-outdoor pool. He owned an 80-foot yacht and a Lamborghini that he loaned to Burt Reynolds for the movie “The Cannonball Run” (1981).
As a reminder of his roots and as a testament to his success, Mr. Rice in his living room the garbage can in which he had perfected the formula for Hawaiian Tropic. He had it silver plated.