Larry Girard, longtime owner and president of A & E Systems Inc., died Jan. 4 in San Clemente, Calif., after a prolonged illness. Girard was 74.

Born in Quebec, Girard was an engineer with Controls Research and Honeywell working on the Apollo LEM Program, before coming to the RV industry. He joined A & E Systems in 1973 as president and in 1979, purchased the company from A & E Plastic Pak in one of the first leveraged buyouts in the United States and the RV industry.  His visionary leadership led to purchasing additional companies to diversify A & E Systems and in his words: “We have to position ourselves to move towards the 21 Century.”

Girard’s dynamic guidance and innovation allowed A & E Systems grow from $8 million dollars in 1979 to $100 million by 1990.  He retired in 1990 to travel the world with his wife, Marcia, and his family. After many years of traveling, Larry and Marcia settled in Southern California, where he encouraged Marcia to start Girard Systems, a new awning company, with a new concept in lateral arm awnings. Girard Systems would also diversify into the water heater business.

In 2010, Girard was named by RVBusiness as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the History of the RV Industry.”

Girard is survived by his wife, Marcia Ann Girard, daughters, Susan Everett, Catherine Cobb, Lori Schultz, Monica Fernandez, Jennifer Bernstein and his grandchildren, Christina Cramer, Logan Everett. Alicia Everett, Faith Everett, Ryan Everett, John Cobb IV, Caiden Donham, Kelly Cobb, Christian Fernandez and Cannon Fernandez.

A “Celebration of Life” Memorial is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 7 in San Clemente.