Maxine North, 83, who came to Thailand in 1950 as the wife of an undercover CIA agent and stayed to become a highly successful businesswoman, died in the resort city of Pattaya on Oct. 3 after a long illness.
North was best known for founding North Star Co., whose Polaris bottled water held a virtual monopoly in the Thai market for about three decades.
Her business took off in the 1960s and 1970s when tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen were stationed in Thailand. North also established Thai Celadon, which revived a northern Thai style of making high-quality porcelain stoneware, and the Nipa Lodge, the first of what is now a complex of luxury hotels in Pattaya, a seaside resort 45 miles southeast of Bangkok.
Born in Salem, Ore., North was working at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood when she met her husband, screenwriter Robert G. North. He headed the Far East Film Co., a movie distribution firm, when the couple moved to Bangkok.
The company served as a cover for his work with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. When her husband died in 1954, North stayed in Thailand and launched her business career.