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Whiting Door Manufacturing co-founder Lauren Whiting died Jan. 25 at the age of 95, according to the company.
A family business, Whiting Door was founded in 1952 by Lauren, his father, Theo, and brother, Donald, as a producer of garage doors. The next year, a customer asked if Whiting could fit a garage-style door onto a truck body, a request that would reshape the company.
Today, Whiting designs and produces roll-up doors for dry freight, insulated and specialty trailer applications, and also produces laminated swing doors. The company also remains a family business. Donald’s son, Pat Whiting, serves as president.
“Lauren was the big picture guy,” Pat told Transport Topics. “He handled the admin side of the business and oversaw that while my dad was on the manufacturing and engineering side. Lauren set the tone for how we were going to operate. We were going to be ethical. That was pretty much his message the whole way through. Whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it right, we’re doing it fair.”
The company employs 600 people in its U.S. factories in Akron, N.Y., and Ontario, Calif. Globally, companies are licensed to manufacture its doors on six continents. Lauren is considered by the company as a driving force behind its growth and global expansion.
“We had computers before other companies our size had them,” Pat said. “He was planning expansions of the facility before anyone else thought we needed it. By the time he was breaking ground, we all knew we needed it. So he was ahead of it. He led us into a bunch of different things that shaped the company.”
After their father’s death in 1966, Lauren — who served as corporate secretary — and Donald guided the company forward. Donald died in 1997.
Pat describes his uncle as a mentor and natural leader despite never taking the role of president. He said that company titles weren’t important to the brothers, noting that it was Lauren, who owned 50% of the company, who set up Pat’s transition to president after Donald died.
“He was just a good mentor type-leader to a lot of people and a very likable guy,” Pat said. “He was a big, imposing guy but everyone knew he was pretty soft under all of that.”
He served in the military and worked as a diesel mechanic before helping start Whiting. During World War II he served in the U.S. Navy on a landing ship tank, where he worked as a motor mechanic, and reached the rank of chief petty officer. He participated in numerous invasions and received several military ribbons for his service.
“Like a lot of guys of his generation, that was a big part of his life,” Pat said. “They went through the depression, and they went through World War II. They were shaped by that. Lauren was a pretty quiet guy.”
In July 2000, he joined a crew of fellow veterans to help restore and return to the U.S. a decommissioned landing ship tank that had been in the Crete region of Greece. After the restoration the ship made a 54-day journey from Crete to Mobile, Ala., with a crew of 29 Navy veterans with an average age of 72. Lauren, then 75, served as the ship’s lone engine operator and engineer.
The ship now functions as a museum in Evansville, Ind.
Lauren also held patents related to truck doors such as lock and seal patents. Additionally, he was a member of American Trucking Associations and the Barker Lions Club.
Lauren leaves behind seven children.
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