Jon Kay, the founder of Torklift, passed away at the age of 76 on Feb. 2, while holding the hand of his son, Jack. Kay led a courageous and inspiring life that filled his family and employees with wonder, the company said in a release.
“He was not just a visionary, but a man of great strength and tenacity,” said Jack Kay, son and president of Torklift. “When he had his first heart attack at age 46, I remember him getting back on his feet and telling me that he was told he only had 10 years left to live due to his heart condition. He began to work out by walking up the long Smith Street Hill in Kent about 4 miles everyday to and from work. That was 30 years ago and just one of many such examples.”
Kay founded the company more than 40 years ago in downtown Kent, Wash. It started as a one-man, one-bay service center where he custom fabricated trailer hitches, repaired trailers, and became the first home of his very first, mass produced inventions for the RV aftermarket.
From the beginning, Kay instilled a strong work ethic in his employees, according to the company. He regularly worked side-by-side with his employees, underneath a truck installing parts and troubleshooting issues. Even in his later years, he actively worked at Torklift inventing new products, working with employees, and working on robotic and machinery ideas.
“His work ethic was foundational and built solely upon serving his family, employee and customer’s needs first and foremost from the beginning to the end,” said grandson and Torklift Operations Manager Joel Crawford.
Kay invented the SuperHitch, truck camper tie downs, and FastGun turnbuckles, among other products. The creation of these products led to the expansion of an additional football field sized facility called Torklift International where these products are mass-produced.
“Several years ago, after the FastGun was first created, a woman told my dad that she suffered from crippling arthritis in her hands,” said Jack Kay. “She explained that she was considering no longer truck camping because she was unable to operate the old-fashion manual turnbuckles, until she learned about the FastGun turnbuckle. Because of that product my dad invented, this customer was able to enjoy truck camping for many more years.”
Jon cared for his customers and was quoted several years ago saying, “I always look at things like I’m the customer. That’s my motto. I want to give them a good product at a fair price.”
Kay’s death is felt throughout the Torklift family, the company said. He will be honored through employees continued relentless work ethic, invention, and a pioneering spirit to go where others have not, Torklift added.
Kay’s funeral will be held at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Fir Lane Memorial Park in Spanaway, Wash. A viewing will also be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 17.
Flowers can be sent to Fir Lane or in lieu of flowers donations are encouraged to be sent to Kent Food Bank located at 515 W. Harrison St. #107, Kent, WA 98032 care of the Kent Turkey Challenge. The Turkey Challenge was an annual fund-raiser Kay’s company hosts each year benefiting local families in need.